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Who was responsible for Monday’s deadlock at Westminster? In some ways, everyone.
Most all the alternatives to Theresa May’s Brexit deal. The Scottish National party abstained on the proposal to keep the UK in a customs union, which otherwise would have won a majority. The Liberal Democrats and the Independent Group similarly scuppered a proposal to keep the UK in the customs union and single market. And Labour backbenchers tipped the balance against a second referendum.
As a result, for the second time in five days, the House of Commons failed to back any of the . A third round of voting is scheduled for Wednesday.
How MPs voted on the second round of indicative votes
None of the options earned more than the 286 votes received by Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement when it was defeated in the House of Commons on Friday. That is a symbolic blow to soft Brexit and anti-Brexit MPs, although three of their proposals lost by a narrower margin than the prime minister’s. (The explanation is that many MPs, including all cabinet ministers, abstained.)
How MPs voted on the Customs Union
The closest any option came to majority support was Ken Clarke's customs union proposal, with 273 votes in favour and 276 against. Mr Clarke said he had got a “damn sight nearer a majority” than anyone else so far.
His proposal had the support of and , a handful more than last time. It would have passed had the anti-Brexit Independent Group or the Liberal Democrats backed it. However, both groups again refused to support any form of soft Brexit. Mr Clarke was quick to blame them, and the Scottish National party, whose 35 MPs abstained.
The customs union was mainly undone by the opposition of Conservatives and the Democratic Unionist party. A total of 236 Tories voted against a customs union, showing why Mrs May is so reluctant to embrace one.
How MPs voted on holding a public vote on any final deal
The most popular option was a second EU referendum, with 280 MPs in favour, and 293 against. It performed slightly better than it did last week: its losing margin fell from 27 to 13.
That was largely due to a number of Conservative converts including culture minister Margot James, former business minister Richard Harrington, and Nick Boles, the leading proponent of Common Market 2.0. In total, backed a second referendum. Five more Labour MPs voted in favour of a second referendum than last time.
But the proposal was defeated by the bulk of the Conservative party, and a significant chunk of Labour rebels (40 or ). With relatively few abstentions, it has no easy path to a majority.
How MPs voted on Common Market 2.0
Ahead of Monday’s votes, there was excitement around Common Market 2.0, the softest of the Brexit proposals, which would keep the UK in the single market and in a customs union with the EU.
It won the formal support of the Labour and Scottish National parties, and ended up losing by 21 votes, a far better performance than the 94-vote defeat it suffered on Wednesday.
However, Mr Boles, the Conservative who had led the proposal, was downbeat: “I accept I have failed. I have failed chiefly because my party refuses to compromise,” he told the Commons afterwards, before dramatically resigning from the Conservative party.
Yet Mr Boles’ proposal - like that of a customs union - could still win a majority in the next round. A total of , the highest of any of the options; some may be prepared to jump on Wednesday.
How MPs voted on revoking Article 50 to avoid no deal
Joanna Cherry’s motion lost by the largest margin of any of the proposals on Monday night. The SNP MP had rewritten the proposal to win over Labour support, making clear that her priority was to stop a no-deal Brexit, not to prevent the UK from leaving the EU altogether.
But the idea of potentially revoking Article 50 - and even temporarily stopping the Brexit process - proved too much for the Labour leadership. Keir Starmer, Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary, said it was premature to talk about possible measures to avoid leaving the EU without a deal, and that parliament would have other opportunities.
As a result, Ms Cherry’s proposal won 191 votes, only seven more than on Wednesday. It again lost by a margin of just over 100. A total of , but .
Supporters of the indicative votes process appeared a little chastened after Monday’s results. They will seek to take control of the parliamentary agenda again on Wednesday, and may introduce a new system of transferable votes to ensure that one option receives a majority.
There are several possible routes to a majority. One is compromise: the Lib Dems or the Independent Group, for example, could back a soft Brexit, instead of their preference of no Brexit.
Another is ministerial intervention. All 28 cabinet ministers have so far been told to abstain, and large numbers of other MPs have not voted on some of the proposals. However, given that most of the cabinet is opposed to a soft Brexit, their involvement is unlikely to help generate a majority for any option.
A radical path would be to meld together one of the soft Brexit options with a second referendum (e.g. MPs could back Common Market 2.0, subject to a confirmatory public vote). This would win the support of the Lib Dems and the Independent Group, but would risk losing the support of some Tory and Labour MP. The Conservative MP Mr Clarke, who opposes a second referendum, predicted a composite motion would not work: “You lose more [MPs] than you gain.” Anna Soubry, of the Independent Group, disagreed that a combination of customs union, regulatory alignment and second referendum could win a majority on Wednesday.
If none of these paths work, Mrs May’s deal may not be as dead as its critics have claimed. However, even that is far from certain: on Monday, one Conservative MP, Richard Drax, said he regretted voting for it on Friday and would not do so again.
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Sources: House of Commons (divisions); OpenDataNI, Prof Chris Hanretty (constituency referendum vote estimates).
* 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.
Additional graphics and data research by Martin Stabe, Cale Tilford and Ændrew Rininsland.