None of the eight Brexit options proposed by British lawmakers have secured clear backing in a series of votes in the House of Commons after Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plans failed to win the House.
Speaker John Bercow on Wednesday had hoped the process agreed by the House would allow for a second stage of debate and “there was no reason it should not work out,” he had wished.
However, none of the options appealed to the majority.
Wednesday’s objective was to “shortlist” a number of options before moving on to consider the “most popular”. Barclay appealed to MPs to back the May’s deal “in the national interest” when it returns to the House for a third time – which could happen as soon as Friday.
Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said the results strengthened ministers’ view that their deal was “the best option”, as the eight other options laid down before the House, including a customs union with the EU and a referendum on any deal failed to garner majority votes.
The alternatives were supposed to help find a consensus over how to leave the EU, the BBC reported.
The proposal which came closest to commanding majority support was a cross-party plan — tabled by former Conservative chancellor Ken Clarke — for the whole of the UK to join a new customs union with the EU to ensure tariff-free trade after the UK’s exit.
Eight Conservatives voted for a referendum to endorse the deal, the proposal which secured the most affirmative votes. Labour controversially whipped its MPs to back the proposal but 10 shadow ministers abstained and Melanie Onn quit her job to vote against.
The results capped a day of drama in which Theresa May promised to stand down as Prime Minister if her deal was passed.
May told a meeting of Tory MPs she would leave office earlier than planned if it guaranteed Parliament’s backing for her withdrawal agreement with the EU.
She was ready to pay the ultimate price, and leave office. For a moment it seemed it might work and line up the support she so desperately needed.
But within a couple of hours her allies in Northern Ireland were refusing to unblock the progress of Theresa May’s main mission, the BBC said.
However, analysts still belive there might yet be another option for May to push her deal through Parliament against the odds on Friday.
But if Plan A fails, Parliament is not ready with a clear Plan B that could yet succeed.
“The House has considered a wide variety of options as a way forward,” Barclay said. “And it demonstrates there are no easy options here. There is no simple way forward.
“The deal the government has negotiated is a compromise…That is the nature of complex negotiations.”
“The results of the process this House has gone through today strengthens our view that the deal the government has negotiated is the best option,” the Brexit Secretary added.
How MPs voted:
Confirmatory referendum — For: 268 Against: 295
Customs union — For: 264 Against: 272
Labour’s Brexit plan — For: 237 Against: 307
Common Market 2.0 — For: 188 Against: 283
Revoking Article to avoid no deal — For: 184 Against: 293
No-deal exit on 12 April — For: 160 Against: 400
Malthouse Plan B — For: 139 Against: 422
EFTA and EEA membership — For: 65 Against: 377
As reactions started coming in, the BBC quoted Brexiteer Mark Francois as saying: “This attempt to seize the order paper” by MPs had failed and the public would be looking on “with amazement”.
But Conservative MP Sir Oliver Letwin, who oversaw the unprecedented process of indicative votes, said the lack of a majority for any proposition was “disappointing”.
While he said he believed the British lawmakers should be allowed to have another go at reaching a consensus on April 1, he said this would not be needed if the PM’s deal was approved before then.
Independent Group MP Anna Soubry said more people have voted for the idea of another referendum than for May’s deal on the two times it had been put to Parliament.
Labour MP Dame Margaret Beckett, who put forward the motion for a confirmatory referendum, said the objective had not been to identify a single proposition but to get a sense of where a compromise may lie “letting a thousand flowers bloom”.