May’s next step: How can she delay the meaningful vote?

Ministers could use one of three methods to delay the meaningful vote, Commons officials have confirmed.

After Theresa May tore up plans to put her deal before MPs on Tuesday, questions were raised over whether she had the power to unilaterally stop MPs voting on it under Commons procedures.

There was some suggestion that MPs might need to vote separately on whether to allow her meaningful vote to be postponed – raising fresh questions over whether she could win over enough MPs to support it.

In a Twitter question and answer session, Commons officials said: “The vote could be delayed in 1 of 3 ways.

“1) A Minister could defer the motion when it is called at the start of business today or tomorrow.

“2) The Govt could move a motion during the debate ‘That the debate be now adjourned’: this could be debated & voted on.

“3) If these two options are unavailable, technically a Minister could ‘talk out’ the debate at 7pm on Tuesday. (2/2)

Of the three, options one and three seem the most plausible, with division now so rife in the Tory party that Mrs May is unlikely to risk any vote she could lose.

Southend MP and former whip James Duddridge underlined the depth of the problem.

Tweeting before the House of Commons outlined the Prime Minister’s options, he wrote: “The PM does not get to pull a vote. The House will have to vote to pull a vote.

“I will oppose. We need to see this deal off once and for all.”

The length of the delay in returning for a vote on the deal, or anything else, will be of importance with the UK due to leave the EU on March 29.

On this the House of Commons officials helpfully noted: “In practice the latest date would be 28 March as matters stand.”