What you need to know about the Brexit amendments tabled by MPs

MPs are jostling to have their favoured outcome for Brexit debated in the House of Commons in what is shaping up to be a day of high drama on January 29.

Following the resounding defeat of Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement in last week’s Commons showdown, the Prime Minister was forced to set out a Plan B for debate next week.

And thanks to a successful challenge by former attorney general Dominic Grieve, MPs can table amendments to Mrs May’s motion – setting out a wide range of alternative approaches.

It will be down to Speaker John Bercow to decide which proposals are selected for a vote. Any successful amendments will not have the force of law, but will carry heavy political weight as a signal to Downing Street and Brussels of what kind of Brexit MPs are likely to approve.

John Bercow
Speaker John Bercow will decide which amendments are selected for votes (UK Parliament/Mark Duffy/PA Images)

These are the amendments tabled by Thursday morning:

Labour frontbench

Backed by Jeremy Corbyn and his senior lieutenants, this would require time to be provided for Parliament to vote on options to prevent a no-deal Brexit, including Labour’s preferred outcome – a permanent customs union, a strong single market relationship and alignment with the EU on rights and standards – and a second referendum.

The Liberal Democrats have tacked their own amendments onto the Labour proposal, one dumping Mr Corbyn’s customs union as an option and the other requiring Remain to be on the ballot paper in any referendum.

Citizens’ assembly

Tabled by Labour backbencher Stella Creasy and signed by a total of 25 Labour, Lib Dem and Green MPs, this would extend the two-year Article 50 negotiation process to allow the creation of a 250-member Citizens’ Assembly to debate Brexit and make recommendations.

Indicative votes

Tabled by Commons Brexit Committee chairman Hilary Benn, this would require a series of votes in Parliament on different options for Brexit, to test support among MPs.

Hilary Benn
Brexit Committee chairman Hilary Benn is seeking a series of indicative votes on EU withdrawal options (UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA)

Article 50 extension

Backed by select committee chairs including Mr Benn, Rachel Reeves, Yvette Cooper and Norman Lamb – and senior backbenchers including Ed Miliband and Sir Oliver Letwin – this would require the Prime Minister to seek a delay to the planned Brexit date of March 29 if no deal has been approved by February 26.

Power to Parliament

Considered one of the proposals most likely to succeed, the plan tabled by Labour’s Yvette Cooper and Conservative Nick Boles would force a vote on a bill giving Parliament control over the Brexit process if the PM fails to secure a deal by February 26. The bill would give MPs a vote on preventing a no-deal Brexit and extending Article 50.

Grieve amendment

Tabled by the former attorney general with cross-party backing from MPs including ex-members of Mrs May’s Government Justine Greening, Phillip Lee and Sam Gyimah, this would set aside six days in the run-up to March 29 for debate of Brexit proposals put forward by MPs.

Free votes

This plan from Labour’s Frank Field and Tory Ed Vaizey would require free votes on options including the Irish backstop, a no-deal Brexit, Canadian and Norwegian models for relations with the EU, a customs union relationship and a second referendum to act as a “guide” for Government in future talks.

Stop no deal

Drawn up by Midlands MPs Dame Caroline Spelman and Jack Dromey, with cross-party support from more than 110 MPs, this amendment rejects Brexit without a Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration on future UK/EU relations.

Time-limited backstop

Tabled by Conservative backbencher Andrew Murrison and thought to be viewed sympathetically by the Government, this would put a deadline of December 31 2021 on the backstop arrangement required by the EU to avoid a hard border in Ireland. It is designed to give Mrs May additional negotiating clout by indicating to Brussels that this step might be enough to win parliamentary support for the Withdrawal Agreement reached last November.

Just re-tabled my amendment to the Withdrawal Agreement. It reads; <At end add: ‘but insists on an expiry date to the backstop.’>Short and sweet. Likely to appeal to moderate MPs who just want #Brexit sorted.

— andrew murrison (@AWMurrison) January 22, 2019

Business Committee

An amendment tabled by Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesman Tom Brake would establish a Business of the House Committee to govern the provision of parliamentary time for Brexit debates and legislation, including on a second referendum with Remain on the ballot paper.

Mr Brake said the cross-party committee, with up to 17 members drawn from all parts of the UK, would put Parliament “in the driving seat of the Brexit process”.

Liberal Democrat frontbench

Tabled by Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable and backed by all 11 of the party’s MPs, this would require the Government to rule out a no-deal Brexit and make preparations for a second referendum, with Remain on the ballot paper.

No backstop

An amendment proposed by Conservative backbencher John Baron states that Parliament will not approve a Withdrawal Agreement which includes a backstop. Two separate amendments tabled by the Basildon & Billericay MP offer alternatives of a six-month time limit on the backstop or a requirement for the UK to have unilateral power to end it.