LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Theresa May is aiming to break the parliamentary deadlock over Brexit by proposing to seek further concessions from the European Union on a plan to prevent customs checks on the Irish border.
On Jan. 29, parliament will debate May’s proposed next steps as well as alternative plans put forward by MPs, including some that seek to delay Britain’s March 29 exit by requesting an extension to the two-year Article 50 negotiation period.
Others seek to shift control of the process away from government and give parliament itself the chance to define Brexit. If successful, this could have a profound effect, giving MPs who want to block, delay or renegotiate Brexit a possible legal route to do so.
The Jan. 29 proceedings are not a rerun of a debate earlier this month, after which parliament hugely rejected May’s deal. Instead, they are designed to discover what sort of changes would be required to win the support of parliament.
If an option were approved by a majority of MPs, May could go back to the EU and seek changes to her Brexit deal. Parliament would ultimately need to vote on any revised deal.
Below is what is due to happen next:
JAN. 21-29: MPS PROPOSE ALTERNATIVES
MPs are proposing alternatives to May’s next steps through a parliamentary device known as an amendment. Amendments will be selected on Jan. 29 by speaker John Bercow and can then be put to a vote.
Below are the amendments that have been put forward so far:
AMENDMENT A - Signed by 52 MPs
Proposed by opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, it calls for parliament to consider alternative options to prevent Britain leaving without a deal, including seeking a permanent customs union with the EU and holding a second referendum.
This is unlikely to be approved as pro-EU MPs in May’s Conservative Party have indicated they will not rebel against their leader by supporting it.
Several Labour MPs and the pro-EU Liberal Democrats have proposed changes to this amendment so that it would call only for parliament to vote on holding a second referendum and that remaining in the EU should be an option in that referendum.
AMENDMENT B - Signed by 103 MPs
Put forward by Labour lawmaker Yvette Cooper, this one has a strong chance of succeeding as Labour’s finance policy chief has said it is “highly likely” the party will back it. It is also supported by several of May’s Conservatives.
It seeks to shift control of Brexit from May’s government to parliament by demanding that on Feb. 5, the rule that government business takes precedence in parliament is overturned.
Providing it has the support of 10 MPs from at least four political parties, it then makes time for a piece of legislation Cooper has proposed, which gives May until Feb. 26 to get a deal approved by parliament.
If the government fails to get a deal through by that date, parliament would be given a vote on asking the EU for a postponement of the Article 50 deadline to prevent Britain leaving without a deal on March 29. It proposes a nine-month extension, to Dec. 31.
AMENDMENT C - Signed by 11 MPs
Proposed by Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable and his MPs, it calls on the government to rule out a no-deal exit and prepare for a second referendum in which the option to remain in the EU would be on the ballot paper.
AMENDMENT D - Signed by 11 MPs
Proposed by Liberal Democrat lawmaker Tom Brake, it demands that a committee of no more than 17 MPs from across political parties be created and given control of the parliamentary Brexit process.
AMENDMENT E - Signed by 33 MPs
Proposed by Conservative lawmaker Andrew Murrison and supported by many Conservatives, it calls for Britain’s exit deal with Brussels to be changed to add an expiry date to the Northern Irish backstop of Dec. 31, 2021.
AMENDMENT F - Signed by 17 MPs
This has been put forward by Labour lawmaker Hilary Benn, who chairs parliament’s Brexit select committee. It calls on the government to hold indicative votes on the following options:
1) Holding another vote in parliament on May’s deal
2) Leaving with no deal on March 29
3) Calling on the government to renegotiate May’s deal
4) Holding a second referendum
AMENDMENT G - Signed by 74 MPs
This has been proposed by Conservative lawmaker Dominic Grieve and has a chance of succeeding as it is supported by MPs from several parties.
It demands that, one day a week in February and March, the rule that government business takes precedence in parliament is overturned, giving MPs the opportunity to propose their own debates on Brexit. Any proposals approved by parliament on those days would not be binding on the government but would be politically difficult to ignore.
AMENDMENT H - Signed by 37 MPs
Put forward by a group of Labour MPs, this calls on the government to request an extension to the Article 50 deadline so that a ‘Citizen’s Assembly’ of 250 people can be created to consider the way forward and make recommendations to parliament within 10 weeks of being set up.
AMENDMENT I - Signed by 129 MPs
Put forward by Conservative lawmaker Caroline Spelman and supported by MPs from most political parties, it seeks to rule out a no-deal Brexit.
AMENDMENT J - Signed by 78 MPs
Proposed by MPs from Labour, May’s Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats, this calls on the government to request an extension to the Article 50 deadline if a deal has not been approved by Feb. 26.
AMENDMENT K - Signed by 17 MPs
This amendment, put forward by Conservative lawmaker John Baron, calls on parliament to reject any Brexit deal which includes a Northern Ireland backstop.
AMENDMENT L - Signed by 17 MPs
Also proposed by Baron, it states that parliament will not approve a Brexit deal which includes a Northern Ireland backstop lasting any longer than six months.
AMENDMENT M - Signed by 18 MPs
Also put forward by Baron, it calls for parliament to reject any Brexit deal that does not give Britain a unilateral right to terminate the Northern Ireland backstop.
AMENDMENT N - Signed by 8 MPs
Supported by Graham Brady, the chairman of the influential 1922 Committee of Conservative MPs, it calls for the backstop to be replaced with alternative arrangements to avoid a hard border and says parliament would support May’s Brexit deal if this change were made.
JAN. 29: PARLIAMENT DEBATES AND VOTES ON NEXT STEPS
Parliament will hold a day of debate on May’s proposed next steps and the amendments.
A vote in favour of changing the parliamentary rules would change the long-held principle of the British parliament that the government has control of what has the chance to become law.
Votes on alternative types of deal proposed by MPs should give an indication of whether there is any way forward supported by a majority in parliament.
Reporting by Kylie MacLellan, William James and Elizabeth Piper; Editing by Stephen Addison
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