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Wednesday’s Indicative Votes Explained


Last night (Monday 25th) MPs voted to hold a series of indicative votes on the future of Brexit. The vote means that on Wednesday, parliament will take control of the house’s schedule and will be free to schedule whatever it likes. It appears that they will choose to use this time for indicative votes.

Indicative votes are a way for MPs to show which outcome for Brexit they would actually support. May’s deal has failed twice, and MPs have also rejected the idea of the UK leaving without a deal, so it’s pretty clear what they don’t want. These votes give them a chance to show what they do like and what they would vote for.

At this stage it’s not entirely clear how the votes would be organised, or which options would be put to the house. Letwin, the Conservative MP who proposed this amendment originally, suggested that MPs should be allowed to vote on each vote individually. This method would show how many MPs are for and against each option and would clearly demonstrate if any of the paths forward had majority support.

Alternatively they could hold a preferential vote, where MPs rank each of the options. This would show the most popular option within the house and allow MPs some level of nuance beyond just yes or no.

There are a number of different proposals that MPs could be asked to vote on, but at this stage these ones seem the most likely:


May’s Deal

I know! You thought these votes were a way to avoid a third vote on May’s deal, but it could re-emerge during the indicative votes. It is after all the easiest solution, the only deal which the EU have already approved and could be passed reasonably quickly. It’s unlikely to be much more successful than it has been before, but it is likely worth voting on again.


Second Referendum

The idea of a second referendum has been greatly debated in recent weeks, with large swathes of the general public calling out for one. However, it’s less popular within the House of Commons – only 85 MPs supported it last time it was put to the house.

Nothing is confirmed but the referendum would likely present three options; May’s deal, no deal or no Brexit.

This might options might not be put to the house as it’s own vote, and could be incorporated into another one of the options.


Norway Style Deal

A soft, Norway Style Brexit would see the UK remaining in the EEA and EFTA, therefore also remaining within the European Single Market an Customs Union.

This idea is controversial for many as it would require the UK to continue allowing free movement to EU citizens. However, it does have some support from both sides of the house with Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn even suggesting some support for the deal.


Canada Style Deal

A Canada Style Brexit deal is a far harder option than the Norway deal we just discussed.

It would see the UK focusing on negotiating a new trading arrangement which allowed open trade without regulatory alignment. This would allow UK and EU businesses to trade unimpeded, while not holding the UK to EU regulations.

Many have criticized this approach calling it deluded and unrealistic. Therefore there are doubts that even if the House of Commons approved a deal like this, would the EU also agree to it?


Labour’s Approach

Labour are looking leave the EU’s Single Market, but remain in the Customs Union. This would keep the UK close to the EU while still loosening the EU’s grasp.

It is unlikely that this deal would pass, despite interest from the EU, in part because it was proposed by the Labour Leader. Corbyn’s support for this approach makes it hard for Conservatives to back the deal. Tories would be concerned that if Labour’s deal were passed, it could boost Labour’s credibility with the party getting credit for ‘ending the deadlock’.


No Deal Brexit

This option (like May’s) has been rejected by the House of Commons twice already. However, also like May’s it’s a reasonably easy solution. If MPs did vote to approve a no deal Brexit then the UK could lave on April 12th and begin operating under WTO rules immediately. The EU wouldn’t need to ratify or approve anything, and if nothing changes this is already the default outcome.