MPs to vote again on Brexit on Friday but it will not be ‘meaningful’

MPs are to vote again on Brexit on Friday, but the debate will not amount to a third attempt to pass a “meaningful vote” on Theresa May’s EU withdrawal package.

Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom told MPs that the House of Commons will hold an unscheduled sitting on March 29 – originally scheduled to be Brexit Day – to consider a motion on EU withdrawal.

Ms Leadsom appeared to indicate that MPs could be asked to approve the Withdrawal Agreement reached last November, but not the Political Declaration setting out plans for a future trade and security relationship with the EU.

Passing the Withdrawal Agreement alone would allow the UK to qualify for an extension in Brexit talks to May 22 under the terms set down by the European Council last week.

But it would not fulfil the requirements of last year’s EU Withdrawal Act, which stipulates that both elements must be approved by MPs to pass the “meaningful vote” allowing the deal to be ratified.

Asked by Labour MP Chris Bryant whether the two parts of the Brexit package were being separated in this way, Ms Leadsom replied: “What a motion that comes forward tomorrow must do is is it must enable us to meet the Council conclusions which say that any unilateral commitment, statement or other act should be compatible with the letter and the spirit of the Withdrawal Agreement.”

No information was being made available on the wording of the motion to be tabled later on Thursday. But a Downing Street source said it would not be the third “meaningful vote” under the terms of the Act – known in Westminster as MV3.

The Prime Minister must secure Commons approval for her deal by 11pm on Friday if the UK is to be given an automatic delay to May 22 of the date on which it leaves the EU.

Friday’s debate is dependent on a business motion being moved and passed by the House later on Thursday, and on Speaker John Bercow deeming that the Government’s proposal is in line with parliamentary rules which ban the same motion being repeatedly tabled.

Downing Street has previously indicated that a third “meaningful vote” would only be attempted if the Prime Minister felt there was a credible chance of success, after its defeat by 230 votes in January and 149 in March.

And the Democratic Unionist Party said on Thursday that its opposition to the Withdrawal Agreement remained unchanged.