Britain's big Brexit vote: What happens in parliament?
LONDON, Jan 15 (Reuters) - Prime Minister Theresa May must
win a vote in parliament to get her Brexit deal approved, or
risk seeing Britain's exit from the European Union descend into
To win, May and her ministers have to overcome opposition
from across the political spectrum.
Here's how the voting will work:
The debate takes place in the lower house of parliament, the
House of Commons. May does not have an outright majority of the
650 lawmakers, and the DUP, the small Northern Irish party that
usually props up her government, is opposed to the deal.
May needs 318 votes to get a deal through parliament as
seven members of the Irish nationalist Sinn Fein party do not
sit, four speakers do not vote and four lawmakers who help count
votes, known as tellers, are not counted.
Parliament held three days of debate in December before May
postponed a vote, acknowledging she was about to lose it. The
debate restarted on Jan. 9 and will end at 1900 GMT on Jan. 15.
Once the debate has ended, a handful of amendments could
come up for votes before the vote on the motion itself. Each
vote takes around 15 minutes. If votes are held on each of four
provisionally selected amendments, the whole process should
finish around 2015 GMT.
Click on for live Reuters coverage of Brexit.
The debate will be on whether to approve a motion stating
that parliament has approved the Withdrawal Agreement - a legal
text setting out the terms of departure - and a separate
political declaration outlining the long-term relationship
Britain will have with the EU.
WHAT ARE AMENDMENTS?
John Bercow, the speaker of the house, has provisionally
selected four amendments which could be put to a vote, though
others could be selected during the day.
If approved, an amendment would be included in the final
motion's wording. In some cases, defeat on an amendment is so
significant that the voting process is halted and the deal is
considered to have been rejected.
While any successful amendments would not bind the
government to comply with them, they would be politically hard
to ignore, and could dictate May's next steps.
Ministers have expressed concerns that if any amendment is
passed by parliament, it could prevent the deal being ratified
because the final vote may not then provide the legally
necessary clear and unequivocal approval of May's deal.
The amendments will be voted on before the deciding ballot
on the overall motion. This means May has to win a series of
votes, rather than just one, each with the potential to scupper
The amendments selected to be voted on are:
This has been proposed by the leader of the opposition
Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, and would have three effects:
1) Reject May’s deal
2) Attempt to block Britain leaving without a deal
3) Demand the pursuit of every alternative exit strategy
This has been proposed by Scottish and Welsh lawmakers who
say the deal damages their nations. It does two main things:
1) Rejects the existing deal
2) Demands an extension to the Article 50 negotiating period
This has been proposed by members of May’s Conservative
Party. It sets out that Britain will tear up the withdrawal
agreement if the EU refuses to agree to a way of ending the
special ‘backstop’ arrangements in place to prevent a hard
border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.
This has been proposed by a member of May’s Conservative
Party. It sets out to make approval conditional on Britain
negotiating the right to terminate the backstop without needing
HOW WILL THE RESULT BE ANNOUNCED?
Once the debate is finished, the speaker will read out the
name of the first amendment and ask those in favour of it to
shout "aye", and then those against "no". As long as some
lawmakers shout "no", the speaker will call a formal vote, known
as a division.
Votes are registered by lawmakers walking through different
doorways, out of sight of television cameras and onlookers. Once
the headcount is complete, lawmakers return to the debating
chamber. The four appointed tellers will assemble in front of
the speaker, and one will read the result out loud.
This procedure is repeated for each individual amendment
selected by the speaker, and then the main motion is put to a
vote using the same process.
WHAT HAPPENS IF MAY LOSES?
If May loses the vote, she is required by parliament to come
back within three working days with a motion setting out her
next steps. The deadline for this would be the end of Monday
Some media have reported May would ask parliament to vote
again on the deal. May's office has said she would respond
quickly to any defeat, but has not set out how.
Some lawmakers have floated the idea that parliament could,
in a temporary break to convention in Britain, take control of
the process away from the government and hand it to a committee
of senior lawmakers from across the political spectrum.
With 117 of her party's 317 lawmakers having voted against
her in a confidence vote in December, she is also likely to come
under pressure to resign.
(Reporting by William James, Kylie MacLellan and Andrew
Editing by Peter Graff)
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