Will Parliament vote for a Brexit agreement in time?

With 23:00 on 29 March approaching quickly, time seems to be running out to find consensus on the Government’s Brexit plans before exit day. MPs will vote again this week on the Government’s next steps, in the absence of the Prime Minister putting forward the Withdrawal Agreement for a second ‘meaningful vote’.

Let’s recap where we are in the process for getting an agreement through Parliament:

  • 11 December: The date the Government originally scheduled the ‘meaningful vote’, which was postponed the day before the vote was due.
  • 15 January: The delayed ‘meaningful vote’ was held and the Government recorded a historic loss, with a majority against the agreement of 230 votes.
  • 29 January: A motion outlining the Government’s next steps was put forward to MPs. A majority of MPs voted for an amendment that would seek ‘alternative arrangements’ to replace the Irish backstop. The Prime Minister said she would hold a second ‘meaningful vote’ as soon as possible and if that did not take place before 13 February a further vote on next steps would be tabled.

Last week the Prime Minister met with the EU in Brussels. There was agreement that the EU and UK negotiating teams would reconvene to see if they could find a way through. The Prime Minister and European Commission President Jean-Claude Junker agreed to meet again before the end of February to take stock of the discussions.

That brings us to this week. The Prime Minister told MPs that the next steps continue to be discussions with Brussels. She will come back to the House of Commons on 26 February for a further update and what would be a third ‘next steps’ vote on 27 February.

This may mean that MPs could be waiting until March before a second ‘meaningful vote’ is put to Parliament. Given the scale of the defeat first time round, the Prime Minister needs to convince a significant number of MPs to back whatever she comes back to Parliament with. Deadlock feels like it could be with us for some time yet.