I have tried to cover the huge numbers of questions that have been posed on both the events and votes that are coming up and the more general questions. Some questions, of course, can’t be answered at this stage as we simply do not know.
As part of Parliament taking control of the business of the house the so called Cooper-Letwin Bill, instructing the Prime Minister to seek an extension to Article 50 and avoid a no-deal Brexit, was debated on 3rd of April. I signed the Bill and the programme motion and we worked cross party to ensure the Bill passed.
The Bill passed its 3rd reading late last night by 313 ayes to 312 noes. I voted for the Bill. It now goes to the House of Lords where it could be debating for some time as Brexiteer Lords use filibustering measures to delay the Bill.
After locking her Cabinet in Downing Street for seven and a half hours on Tuesday, the Prime Minister made a statement to the media. In her statement, she said that she would seek an extension beyond the current April 12 deadline, to allow talks with Jeremy Corbyn to try and find a joint plan they can agree on which can be put to the House of Commons ahead of the April 10 summit of the European Council. If not, the PM said that she would put forward several different options for future relations with the EU for the Commons to vote on.
This is clearly a trap from the PM. Any ‘concessions’ that may be agreed would be temporary and not legally binding as they will only be attached to the political declaration. As we know, Theresa May has said she will stand down if she manages to get her deal through Parliament. Therefore whatever is agreed relating to the political declaration could be ripped up by whoever the next Tory PM is.
Indicative Votes 2
On Monday 1st April, MPs voted in the second round of indicative votes to try and find a consensus and way forward in this Brexit mess.
As was the case last week, the Speaker selected amendments to be debated and voted on. The full list of amendments that were tabled can be seen here . Of this list, the Speaker selected amendments C), D), E) and G).
Amendment C – The UK would have to negotiate, as a minimum, a Customs Union with the EU and Parliament would have to pass legislation committing to this. I signed and voted for this amendment. The result was Ayes 273 Noes 276.
Amendment D – Common Market 2.0. This proposal would mean joining the European Free Trade Association and European Economic Area, with countries such as Norway. The UK would remain part of the EU single market and would retain freedom of movement. I voted for this amendment and the result was Ayes 261 Noes 282. The defeat of this amendment saw Conservative MP Nick Boles resign the party whip, as he was distraught that the Conservatives refused to accept a compromise position. The Government whipped its Tory MPs to vote against this proposal.
Amendment E – A confirmatory public vote on any deal. I signed and voted for this amendment, and the results were Ayes 280 Noes 292.
Amendment G – Parliamentary Supremacy. If the Government cannot pass a deal two days before the Article 50 deadline, Government must seek extension. If the Government cannot pass a deal one day before the Article 50 deadline, MPs must vote whether to leave without deal. If MPs then reject No Deal, we would revoke Article 50 and have a Public Inquiry & Referendum. I signed and voted for this amendment and the result was Ayes 191 Noes 292.
It is also the case that Easter recess has been cancelled.
Indicative Votes 1
Prior to the most recent indicative votes, votes were also held last week where MPs took part in a series of indicative, non-binding votes, in order to give the Prime Minister an indication of what they would or would not support in terms of the next steps in the Brexit process.
I was on BBC Radio Four’s the World at One to discuss the votes. You can listen to my interview here.
The Speaker selected 8 amendments to be debated and voted on. I will lay out what these amendments are, how I voted and the overall result for each.
AMENDMENT B – This would have taken the United Kingdom out of the European Union without a deal on 12 April. I voted AGAINST this amendment, and the result was Ayes 160 Noes 400.
AMENDMENT D – Common Market 2.0. This amendment would have amended the political declaration to commit the Government to continued membership of the Single Market and the Customs Union. I voted FOR this amendment, and the result was Ayes 188 Noes 283.
AMENDMENT H – This amendment was designed to retain membership of EFTA but wouldn’t include a UK-wide customs union. I voted AGAINST this amendment, and the result was Ayes 65 Noes 377.
AMENDMENT J – Tabled by Kenneth Clarke MP and Hilary Benn MP. This option included a commitment to negotiate permanent membership of a Customs Union and requires Parliament to legislate to give effect to that decision. I signed and voted FOR this amendment and the result was Ayes 264 Noes 272.
AMENDMENT K – I abstained on this motion because I thought it was time to take all the unicorns off the table and support serious options going forward. This proposition would not have gained support across the house. I have always supported membership of the Single Market and Customs Union, but this proposition specified ‘a’ Single Market and Customs Union bespoke deal which is not possible to negotiate until there has been a change of Government. The result was Ayes 237 noes 307.
AMEDNMENT L – Tabled by Joanna Cherry MP. This motion required Parliament to have a vote on ‘No Deal’ if the PMs deal is not passed by one sitting day before Article 50 deadline. If the House then rejects ‘No Deal’, the Government would then have to notify the EU that it intends to revoke Article 50. I signed and voted FOR this amendment and the result was Ayes 184 Noes 293.
AMENDMENT M – Tabled by Margaret Beckett MP. The “Kyle/Wilson” amendment. This motion would have required the Government to put the PMs deal, or any deal agreed by parliament, back to the people in a confirmatory vote, as it states that the House would only approve a deal which has been approved by the public. I signed and voted FOR this amendment and the result was Ayes 268 Noes 295.
AMENDMENT O – This would seek a “managed no deal”: a series of mini-deals and a transition to a no-deal Brexit. I voted AGAINST this amendment and the result was Ayes 139 Noes 422.
This Institute for Government graphic shows a breakdown of each vote by party, including abstentions.
INDICATIVE VOTES – HOW DID WE GET HERE?
On 25th March, MPs approved Sir Oliver Letwin MP’s proposal to give control of the Commons Order Paper on Wednesday 27 March to backbench MPs so that they could hold indicative votes on alternatives to the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal.
Under ‘The Letwin Amendment’ MPs first had to consider a Business of the House Motion. This motion set the rules governing the timings, conduct and votes.
MPs had until 3pm to debate the Business Motion. MPs then voted, 331 to 287 votes to approve the rules governing the debate on the indicative votes.
MPs then debated the amendments chosen by the Speaker until 7pm. There was then a 30 minute voting period where, instead of walking through the ‘Aye’ or ‘Noe’ Lobby, MPs were given a ballot paper which listed all of the options the Speaker has selected. MPs then voted ‘Aye’ or ‘Noe’ on each option, and could support or oppose as many options as we liked.
After 30 minutes, votes were counted and the result was declared in the Chamber by the Speaker.
You can see a full list of the options that were been tabled here .
I have included below a summary of everything that has happened over the past few months, which many constituents may have already received. As ever, I will continue to keep you up to date as things progress.
MEANINGFUL VOTE #2, NO DEAL AND ARTICLE 50 VOTES
It may be worth just reviewing the recent events.
The Prime Minister’s meaningful vote #2 on her ‘deal’ took place on Tuesday 12th March. I voted against this deal and MPs rejected it by 391 votes to 242. You can watch my interview on BBC Sunday Politics Scotland here, which discussed some of the so-called MV2 issues.
As promised the Prime Minister then tabled a non-binding motion on Wednesday 13th March to ask Parliament if it wanted to rule out no deal. The motion said the UK should not leave the EU without a deal specifically on 29 March, but with the option of a no-deal Brexit at any other time.
I voted for a cross party amendment to this motion, tabled by Yvette Cooper (Lab) and Caroline Spelman (Con), which went further by ruling out no deal forever. This amendment was passed by MPs by 312 votes to 308. The amended motion then passed 321 votes to 278.
Parliament has clearly shown in vote after vote that it does not want a ‘no deal’ Brexit under any circumstances. My strong view is that a ‘no deal’ scenario will not happen as it is catastrophic and there is a large majority of MPs in the House of Commons who would prevent a no deal from happening. I also understand from senior contacts in the EU that they do not want a no deal either.
Therefore, as Parliament voted against a ‘No deal’ Brexit, the Prime Minister brought another non-binding motion to the House on Thursday 14th March, which pledged the Government to seek a short extension to Article 50 (till 30th June) if no deal is reached by the 20th March.
I voted for Amendment h to this motion, tabled by the Independent Group, which would have sought an extension of Article 50 for the purpose of having a new referendum, which would have remain as an option. The amendment was defeated 85 to 334. Many are understandably angry that some Labour MPs did not support this amendment. There is a comprehensive explanation of why that was the case in my EU update 28, as well as information on other amendments I supported, such as the Hilary Benn amendment i. I voted for the motion to extend Article 50 and it passed 412 votes to 202. Please read my EU Update for the detailed information and explanations.
The motions passed meant that the PM then intended to bring her terrible deal before parliament again before Wednesday 20th March, as a decision was expected to be made on an extension of Article 50 before the European Council meeting on 21st March.
Members of the public will be confused that the Prime Minister seems to want to bring her deal before the House of Commons, time and time again but will not let the people have another say. However, the Speaker of the House of Commons ruled that the Prime Minister could not bring back the same proposition unless it was substantially different. Of course, she had made no significant changes to her deal and therefore the Speaker was entirely right to say this. You can watch his statement here. It is important to state that the Speaker is merely applying the rules as the referee.
During PMQs on Wednesday 20th March, the Prime Minister announced that she had written a letter to the President of the European council Donald Tusk, requesting an extension of Article 50 until 30th June 2019. The letter makes clear that the Prime Minister is primarily seeking an extension in order to allow more time for her deal to be passed by the House of Commons, which MPs have consistently shown they do not want. The content of the letter is dependent on the agreement of the European Council and the EU27 agreeing to Theresa May’s request, as well as confirmation by MPs through a vote in the House of Commons.
The Prime Minister did not make a statement to Parliament on this vital issue, or provide an opportunity for Parliament to scrutinise the proposed course of action. Following PMQs, Labours Shadow Brexit Secretary was therefore granted an emergency SO.24 debate by the Speaker on the length and purpose of the extension of the Article 50 process requested by the Government. These debates are on neutral motions so tend not to have a vote.
After receiving the letter, President Tusk had expressed dissatisfaction with the Prime Ministers request to extend Article 50 until 30th June 2019. He has indicated that an extension until 22nd May would be preferable. This is due to the fact that the European Parliament elections will take place on 23rd-26th May.
Following this, instead of coming to the House of Commons to explain her course of action and allow MPs to properly express their views, the Prime Minister gave a statement to the press at 10 Downing Street. Her speech was a disgrace and shows that she is still in complete denial about the mess of her Brexit negotiations. She wrongly blamed MPs, and not her own ridiculous red lines that she set herself, as the reason for being unable to get her deal through the Commons. This is wholly irresponsible and I for one, will not be bullied into accepting a bad deal which will make my constituents and the country significantly poorer as a result. I know this is a view shared by a huge number of MPs across the House of Commons. I’ve been saying for nearly 2 years that the PM should have reached out at the start and we could have found a consensus in which to negotiate with the EU.
On Thursday 21st March, the European Council had its regular meeting. The Council heard from Theresa May on her plans to extend article 50 and discussed it. President Tusk and the EU Council said that they have agreed to give the UK an extension of Article 50 until 22nd May 2019, on the condition that she can pass her ‘deal’ in the House of Commons before then. If the deal is rejected, there could be a short technical delay until 12th April. By that time the UK must set out its next steps – either another extension or leaving without a deal. This essentially rules out leaving the EU on 29 March and prevents a no deal, at least temporarily.
On Monday 25th, the Prime Minister gave her normal statement following EU Council meetings. In her statement, she also rightly expressed that she still did not have enough support in the Commons to pass her ‘deal’ and so would not be bringing it back for a vote this week. You can watch her statement here.
I also asked the Prime Minister a question on her incoherent approach, which you can see here. I followed up this question with a similar question to David Lidington which you can watch here. Still no clarity on the Government’s no deal position.
The Government were compelled back in February, with an amendment passed by Dominic Grieve MP, to bring forward a statement by 25 March under section 13(4) of the EU Withdrawal Act to set out the next steps. This was debated following the EU Council Statement, and you can watch the debate here.
Three amendments to this motion were selected by the Speaker at the start of the debate.
Amendment (d) – The Labour amendment which would have provided time to find a majority to break deadlock which called on the government “to provide sufficient parliamentary time this week for this house to find a majority for a different approach”. This amendment was not moved and so was not voted on.
Amendment (a) – Cross party amendment in the name of Sir Oliver Letwin, Dominic Grieve and Hilary Benn which called for Commons business on Wednesday to be set aside for a series of indicative votes. I voted for this amendment and it passed by 329 votes to 302, a majority of 27. This was another huge defeat for the Government in which 3 of its Ministers resigned in order to vote for this amendment.
Amendment (f) – Margaret Beckett’s amendment which said that if the UK is seven calendar days from leaving without a deal, the house should be recalled to consider a motion on whether or not MPs approve such a move. I voted for this amendment, but it was defeated by 314 votes to 311.
The main motion (as amended) then passed 327 votes to 300 and I voted for the motion. This means that we will now have indicative votes on Wednesday 27th.
REVOKING ARTICLE 50
I know a lot of constituents have been saying we should just revoke Article 50. Whilst I agree with this, it will, at this stage, not get a majority in Parliament which is why our efforts are towards trying to get a public vote with the option to remain as the mechanism for revocation. However, as the clock ticks down next week this may be the only option remaining to prevent a no deal from happening.
As many have mentioned, there is a national petition with well over 5.7 million signatures and counting, that just over 19,000 constituents in Edinburgh South have signed. You can sign the petition here and view the signatories by constituency here.
Many have also demanded that I support Angus McNeil MPs proposal for an SO24 emergency debate on revocation. As with the Keir Starmer’s SO24 above these are non-votable and non-binding debates so it would, in my view, waste precious time next week and not achieve anything substantial. Of course, if he brings it (which he has not yet done) I will support it but I do think we need to coalesce around what a) we can get through Parliament and b) will give proper effect to something.
We also know that Article 50 can be revoked unilaterally by the UK Government and we would remain a member of the EU on our current favourable terms. We get to that point via a public vote.
- Article 50 extended beyond 12 April;
- A commitment to a public vote;
- Rule out a No Deal scenario.
MY CONTINUED COMMITMENT TO A PEOPLES VOTE
I’m working closely with colleagues to see if there is a compromise position. This is being developed by Labour MPs Peter Kyle and Phil Wilson who have proposed that we allow the PMs deal to pass in return for the deal going to a legally binding affirmation referendum with the option to remain in the EU, if the deal is rejected at that affirmation referendum. The decision would become law as soon as the final result is announced. This was a similar process as used to ratify the Good Friday Agreement in the north and south of Ireland back in 1999. It could bring the majority of parliament together. This is AMENDMENT M, which was voted on yesterday.
It is clear that no one wants the Prime Minister’s deal, so we must now focus on ensuring that the people have a final say. To get a Peoples vote, we must extend Article 50 for a longer period of time. The EU has already been clear that any longer extension beyond 22 May would have to be for a specific purpose and a democratic event would be that purpose.
I was proud to be on the Peoples Vote march on Saturday 23rd with a million others to demand that the PM pivot to this position.
Further, whatever MPs stance on Brexit and outcomes sought, the absence of decision making and lack of parliamentary time for any of the legislation required to facilitate Brexit means it is now imperative that article 50 is extended in all scenarios.I have consistently voted against the PMs blind “deal” as I will not support any deal that makes the country poorer and I have always thought the only way out of this mess is to put it back to the people.
Nobody voted for a Brexit that will see Britain giving away control and leaving people poorer. It means paying a near £50 billion divorce bill but getting nothing in return. Whether it’s a no deal or this dodgy deal, the result would be the same: a miserable Brexit for the UK threatening business confidence, the economy, our public services and the future for our young people. It’s only going to get worse with the biggest issues unresolved while we follow rules over which we will no longer have any say – and suffer long term damage to our economy. This is a fudge.
MPs must ask themselves if this is better than the deal we’ve already got inside the EU. It is clearly not and new evidence confirms this.
Parliament has voted this deal down at every stage, and so we must hand the final decision back to the public.
As a founding member of the People’s Vote campaign through my senior role within Open Britain and Best for Britain I have been championing it for over 12 months. I’m now glad that work is starting to pay off with more and more now looking at this as an option. It is imperative that we get a public vote on the deal versus the option to remain.
A choice between a dodgy deal and no deal is no choice at all. The British public deserve a real choice between leaving the EU on these terms or sticking with the deal we’ve got inside the EU. We now have two measurable propositions. What we currently enjoy as a member of the EU and the PMs Withdrawal divorce agreement and wishful list in the Political Declaration.
A public vote on the deal would show a comparison with what we have now and people could make the choice if that is what they thought would happen when they voted to leave and express their preference now.
Only the people can sort this out.
The Labour Party position is to support a public vote. That was won at conference after a Herculean amount of work from some of my colleagues and I.
Jeremy Corbyn has now confirmed that if the Labour frontbench amendment that instructs the Prime Minister to negotiate the key elements of Labour’s alternative Brexit plan is defeated, Labour will put forward or support amendments in favour of a public vote.
He has confirmed that he is working with Peter Kyle MP and Phil Wilson MP on their amendment which I mentioned earlier, and that any referendum would need to have a credible Leave option and Remain. Labour would also not countenance supporting no deal as an option.
We should have a vote on the final deal. It is the only solution to a problem that can’t be resolved whilst parliament has a majority for “we must do as the people have voted”.
Many have asked the process for getting to a People’s Vote. There is a very good summary of the legal and constitutional process from the University College London. The blog post can be read here.
I am standing up for my constituents as 78% voted remain. Most recent polling shows that in our constituency there is overwhelming support for a People’s vote. You can access this information here.
I campaigned hard locally and across the country for a remain vote and have continued to fight Brexit since. I bring this issue up on every occasion possible which is all on my website www.ianmurraymp.com/european-union/ and Facebook pages if you would like further information. In the EU section on my website, you can also see all I have been doing around this issue since the original referendum.
I held a public meeting on Brexit in January and you can watch footage of the meeting here.
I assisted in organising the rally in Edinburgh back in August last year for a Peoples Vote and helped with the national rally on 20 October in London. It was a huge success, with over 770,000 people taking to the streets to demand a Peoples Vote. The campaign has real momentum. Many have asked for an event in Edinburgh but the organisers are ploughing all money and resources into getting people to London rather than having satellite events. See the Peoples Vote website for information.
The Government are hurtling towards the UK being out of the EU and the potential to break up the UK. That would bring even more turmoil.
I will keep constituents updated as this issue continues to progress. I will add you to receive my EU Updates if you are not already on the list. Please also keep up to date at https://www.peoples-vote.uk/ and register your support.
I will do all I can with like-minded colleagues to deliver a People’s Vote before it is too late and prevent this single biggest act of self-harm the country has ever inflicted upon itself.Thank you once again for taking the time to contact me to share your views I will continue to keep you updated from parliament.