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MPs vote: Clock’s ticking for Brexit plan and Article 50

Yesterday, MPs voted overwhelmingly for a motion put forward by Labour for the government to publish its Brexit plan before invoking Article 50. As part of that, they also voted in support of the government’s amendment that Parliament recognise the referendum result and the accept government’s timetable to invoke Article 50 by the end of March.

461 MPs voted in favour of Labour’s motion with the government amendment. 89 voted against it – largely in protest of the amendment. With all but Ken Clarke from the Tories and the majority of Labour MPs voting in favour, the motion was easily passed. As expected the SNP, Lib Dems and Green’s Caroline Lucas voted against. They were joined by others including around 20 Labour MPs.

Labour’s blank cheque to the government?

A lot of the debate concerned the plan with some MPs concerned that the plan published would be too vague. MPs who voted against the motion criticised Labour for allowing its motion to be hi-jacked by the government. SNP accused Labour of handing the government a blank cheque on Brexit. Tory’s Iain Duncan Smith also told Sky News that the vote was a “blank cheque for the government”.

Meanwhile, Lib Dem leader, Tim Farron, accused Labour and the Tories of “refusing to seek the will of the people on the deal”. The Lib Dems had added their own amendment to the original motion calling on the government to commit to a second referendum on the terms of the deal. However, MPs did not vote on this.

“Late, vague plan” not acceptable

Keir Starmer, pushed aside criticism of his party’s position, saying that a “late, vague plan” for Brexit was not acceptable. He added that Labour would continue to push the government to publish a detailed plan by the end of January. He outlined Labour’s conditions for a Brexit plan.

Labour’s 5 conditions for a Brexit plan

  1. Clarity about the approach to the single market, customs union and transitional arrangements.
  2. Enough detail for relevant parliamentary bodies including the Brexit select committee to give it proper scrutiny.
  3. Enough detail for the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) to do its job. (They didn’t have this for their forecasts ahead of the Autumn Statement)
  4. Enough detail to give assurances to the devolved governments that their concerns are addressed.
  5. Enough detail to “build genuine consensus” so that it works not just for the 52% but for the 100%.

You can find a full transcript of yesterday’s debate and vote on hansard.parliament.uk

The clock is ticking

As we mentioned in our earlier post that whilst the vote has political significance, it is non-binding. The Supreme Court will hear the closing arguments today on the government’s appeal over its right to trigger Article 50 without the support of Parliament. A judgement isn’t expected until January.

Even if the government loses the appeal, Theresa May is still determined to trigger Article 50 by the end of March. She’ll just have a few more hurdles to jump over. So the clock is ticking but seeing as we’re still without a plan, who knows what could yet happen.

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