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Sat, 15 August 2020

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EXPLAINED: The Brexit amendments MPs are set to vote on tonight and what they all mean

EXPLAINED: The Brexit amendments MPs are set to vote on tonight and what they all mean
3 min read

Before MPs cast their verdict on Theresa May’s Brexit deal, they’ll be voting on a string of amendments. While legal debate rages over the ability of the Commons to actually alter the deal - and it remains unlikely any of them will garner enough votes to pass - the four amendments could help point the way forward if the deal is defeated. PoliticsHome walks you through them.

Corbyn amendment (A) - Rejecting the deal for failing Labour’s ‘six tests’ on Brexit

This amendment from Labour’s frontbench is a straightforward bid to rubbish the deal and lay out the opposition’s objections in clear terms.

It says MPs reject the deal because it “fails to provide for a permanent UK-EU customs union and strong single market deal" and accuses the Prime Minister of failing to "protect workers’ rights and environmental standards" while putting Britain's security at risk. Expect voting on this one to fall along party lines.

In a cheeky bit of Parliamentary trolling, the amendment itself has been amended by the Lib Dems, who want it to include a pledge to back a second referendum “as endorsed by the Labour Party Conference 2018”.

Blackford amendment (K) - laying out Scottish and Welsh objections to the deal

The amendment from the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford and Plaid Cymru’s Liz Saville Roberts again registers straightforward objections to the deal and tries to kill it off by saying it would be “damaging for Scotland, Wales and the nations and regions of the UK as a whole”.

It also references a recent European Court of Justice legal ruling - pressed for by the SNP’s Joanna Cherry - pointing out that the UK “has the right to unilateral revocation” of Article 50 and can therefore choose to stop Brexit.

Leigh amendment (B) - ordering ministers to ‘terminate’ the deal if no end to the backstop is in sight

The amendment put forward by Tory grandee Sir Edward Leigh - a longstanding Brexiteer who this week said he intended to vote for the deal after all - tries to beef up the language around the “temporary” nature of the Northern Ireland backstop, the part of Mrs May's deal that has enraged Brexiteers and alienated the DUP.

It presses the Government for an assurance that the UK will treat any running on of the arrangement beyond the end of 2021 as a “fundamental change of circumstances” that would require it to “terminate” the entire deal with the EU and “become an independent country once again”.

Number 10 had been hoping that an amendment on the backstop from Tory MP Andrew Murrison would get picked.

It had been thought that sizable support for the Murrison amendment - or an alternative one from Conservative Hugo Swire - could be used to convince Brussels to give ground on the plan to keep Britain in the EU's regulatory orbit to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland.

But this and the Baron amendment below now remain the best hope of allowing MPs to express their concern about the plan.

Baron amendment (F) - More backstop assurances

This amendment from Conservative John Baron will only go to a vote if the above Leigh amendment falls, Speaker John Bercow has announced.

It's another amendment focused on the backstop, and tweaks the deal to say it is passed “subject to changes being made in the Withdrawal Agreement and in the Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol so that the UK has the right to terminate the Protocol without having to secure the agreement of the EU”.