FACTBOX-How might UK parliament's "indicative votes" on Brexit work?

by Reuters
Tuesday, 26 March 2019 11:36 GMT

By Kylie MacLellan

LONDON, March 26 (Reuters) - British lawmakers voted on Monday to wrest control of the Brexit process from government in order to try to find a majority for an alternative way forward that could break the parliamentary deadlock.

They will take control of parliamentary time on Wednesday afternoon to hold so-called indicative votes on a variety of possible Brexit outcomes.

The process by which the votes will take place is still to be determined, but below is what we know about how it could work:

WHAT OPTIONS MIGHT BE INCLUDED IN ANY VOTE?

Lawmakers are discussing on Tuesday what options to put forward, but at least seven proposals have been floated:

1) A no deal exit

2) Revoking Article 50 and staying in the EU

3) Holding a second referendum on Brexit

4) Prime Minister Theresa May's deal

5) An enhanced Canada-style free trade agreement

6) A customs union with the EU, something the opposition Labour Party has proposed in their alternative plan

7) An enhanced Norway-style deal dubbed Common Market 2.0, which would include membership of the EU's single market, as well as a customs arrangement with the EU.

HOW WILL THE OPTIONS BE CHOSEN?

Conservative lawmaker Oliver Letwin, who led the amendment which parliament agreed to on Monday night, said lawmakers should be invited to put forward alternative Brexit proposals and then the Commons Speaker John Bercow should select which should be included in the vote.

"That is a perfectly proper process to use. It does not involve any one of us tilting the playing field," he said.

HOW WILL LAWMAKERS VOTE?

The options selected by the Speaker would then be included on a ballot paper and lawmakers would be able to vote for as many of the proposals as they wanted, Hilary Benn, a Labour lawmaker and chair of parliament's Brexit committee who has also been involved in the process, told BBC Radio.

Letwin told parliament on Monday that lawmakers would have to be willing to support more than one option in order to find a majority.

"We will all have to seek compromise. We almost know that if we all vote for our first preference, we will never get to a majority solution," he said. "I do not believe there is a majority in favour of the first preferences of any person in this House."

Letwin said that if voting was carried out sequentially rather than on all options at once, it risked lawmakers trying to "game" the sequence.

WILL THE OUTCOME BE DECIDED ON WEDNESDAY?

Benn said the motion the lawmakers planned to put forward on Wednesday would propose a similar process is then carried out next week, likely on Monday, in order to narrow down the options further.

WHAT TIME WILL THE RESULT BE ANNOUNCED?

Lawmakers are due to take control of parliamentary business at 1400 GMT. It is not yet clear when the results of voting would be known.

DOES THE GOVERNMENT HAVE TO ACCEPT THE RESULT?

The votes would not be binding on the government.

May said on Monday she could not commit the government to delivering the outcome of any votes held as parliament might vote for something which was unnegotiable with the EU, or which contradicted her party's 2017 election promises.

Conservative lawmaker Nick Boles told BBC TV on Monday night that if the government refused to reflect the wishes of parliament, lawmakers would bring forward legislation seeking to force it to do so.

HAVE INDICATIVE VOTES HAPPENED BEFORE?

Yes. In 2003, lawmakers were given seven different options for proposed reform of parliament's unelected upper chamber, the House of Lords, but no options garnered a majority. (Additional reporting by Elizabeth Piper; editing by Stephen Addison)

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