The House of Commons was given the opportunity to vote on out of the Brexit swamp on Wednesday evening. One after another, it rejected all of them.
But while the evening of “indicative votes” failed to provide a decisive majority for any of the options, there were surprises.
Prime minister Theresa May gave her Tory MPs a free vote — with the exception of the cabinet, who all abstained. But Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, whipped his MPs on several amendments.
One result which was not widely predicted was that the “confirmatory public vote” — in other words a second referendum — emerged as the most popular option of all.
How MPs voted on the indicative votes
That referendum option, put forward by Margaret Beckett, former Labour foreign secretary, achieved 268 votes for and 295 against. That result came after Mr Corbyn whipped his MPs in favour of the proposal. Various smaller parties including the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats also supported the plan.
Just eight Conservative MPs supported a second referendum, including two new names: Antoinette Sandbach and Huw Merriman.
The second most favoured option turned out to be the “customs union” set out by Ken Clarke, the veteran Tory Europhile. Again, with the backing of Labour MPs, it achieved 265 votes in favour and 271 against, failing by a mere eight votes.
One reason for Mr Clarke’s strong showing was that he picked up 33 votes from the Conservative benches, including three ministers: Mark Field, Rory Stewart and Margot James.
But without the support of the SNP or the newly formed Independent Group Mr Clarke was unable to achieve a majority in the Commons.
Third in terms of support was the Labour proposal for its own customs union plan — defeated by 237 votes to 307 — which only had the backing of one Tory MP: Mr Clarke himself.
No other option received the support of more than 200 MPs, making them less likely to achieve a second wind when the votes take place again next Monday.
Nick Boles, one of the Tory MPs who pushed for the indicatives votes, achieved just 189 votes for his proposal for a “Common Market 2.0”, a Norway-style system involving single market membership.
A vote put forward by Joanna Cherry of the SNP on revoking Article 50 — cancelling Brexit — received 184 votes. They included 111 Labour MPs and 10 Conservative MPs, such as Alan Duncan and Mark Field, who are both ministers in the Foreign Office.
A proposal for no-deal Brexit from John Baron, a Tory MP, received 160 votes in favour and 400 against. All of the yes votes were fellow Conservatives apart from three Labour MPs: Dennis Skinner, Kate Hoey and Ronnie Campbell.
The similar proposition for “contingent preferential arrangements” — a kind of no-deal Brexit with side deals — won just 139 votes.
The least favoured of all proposals was for membership of joining the EEA and EFTA with just 64 votes, to the disappointment of some Tory MPs.
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* Abstentions exclude seven Sinn Féin MPs, division tellers, the Speaker and his three deputies. Paul Flynn, who passed away in February 2019, is also excluded.