Another Brexit defeat for government

18 Feb 2019

The government suffered another defeat yesterday, on a motion stating that MPs continued to support the government‚ s approach to Brexit withdrawal negotiations.

The vote was lost 258-303 after Brexiteer Conservative MPs abstained in protest that ministers appeared to be ruling out no deal before negotiations had concluded.

A Labour amendment which would have required the government, by 27 February, to either hold a ‚ meaningful vote‚ on a withdrawal arrangement or to ‚ make a written statement declaring that there is no longer an agreement in principle in the negotiations with the European Union and to move no later than that date an amendable motion on how the Government proposes to proceed‚ fell by 16 votes.

An SNP amendment with Lib Dem support which would have required the immediate commencement of negotiations with the European Council to extend Article 50, was defeated 93-315 with most Labour MPs abstaining.

Conservative backbencher Anna Soubry withdrew an amendment calling for the economic impact assessments of a ‚ no deal‚ Brexit to be published, after ministers agreed to meet her to discuss this.

What happens now?

Yesterday‚ s vote has no legal force and the government has maintained that they will continue to seek the legally binding changes to the backstop that they believe will enable Parliament to support the withdrawal agreement. The Leader of the House of Commons told MPs yesterday (before the votes but the position will not have changed that ‚ when we achieve the progress we need, we will bring forward another meaningful vote, but if the government do not secure a majority in this House in favour of a withdrawal agreement and a political declaration, they will make a statement on Tuesday 26 February, and will table an amendable motion relating to the statement. A Minister will move that motion on Wednesday 27 February, thereby enabling the House to vote on it, and on any amendments to it, on that day.

Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay met EU ambassadors in London this morning ahead of a trip to Brussels on Monday for further talks with the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier. Theresa May will be back in Brussels herself within days‚ , according to reports.

Parliament will sit next week (it was originally going to be a half-term break) but business is limited to (probably uncontroversial) statutory instruments and adjournment debates without a vote. The real parliamentary red letter day will be Feb 27th, with rumours circulating that ministers will resign to add their votes to efforts to force an extension of Article 50 (ie a delay to the UK‚ s departure from the EU).

How will things end up?

No-one knows, of course. But given the widely-varying predictions being thrown around, it is illuminating to look at what people are putting their money on. The implied percentages from the most recently settled bets on Betfair‚ s betting exchange assign the following probabilities

No deal‚ Brexit ‚ 23% chance
House of Commons passing Brexit vote (Withdrawal Agreement) by March 29th ‚ 30% chance
UK to leave EU by 29/3/19 ‚ 30% chance
UK to leave EU in April, May or June 2019 (implying short extension of Article 50) ‚ 34% chance
UK to leave EU in July-December 2019 (implying medium extension of Article 50) ‚ 10% chance
UK not to have left EU by end of 2019 (implying long extension or revocation of Article 50) ‚ 26% chance