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Britain’s Parliament is into its third day of votes on Brexit, this time on the question of whether, how, and for what purpose Britain’s departure from the European Union should be delayed. Here’s a guide to what the House of Commons is voting on, and how different politicians are trying to re-write the government motion. Voting will start around 5 p.m.
Theresa May proposes that if a Brexit deal is passed before March 20, the government should seek to delay departure until June 30. If there isn’t a deal, it’s unclear what would happen, though it suggests the question of the extension would be up to the European Council.
A series of proposals have been made to rewrite May’s motion, known as “amendments.” Five were selected for vote by Speaker John Bercow. In the order in which they’ll be considered, they are:
The Wollaston Amendment
Independent MP Sarah Wollaston proposes that the government should delay departure in order to hold a second referendum. Confusingly, the various second referendum campaign groups oppose this amendment at this point, because they suspect it will be heavily defeated, a blow to their campaign. Labour aren’t supporting it. It will be referred to as “Amendment H.”
The Benn Amendment
An amendment from Brexit Committee Chairman Hilary Benn, this deletes the text of May’s motion and proposes a series of indicative votes on March 20. It’s the amendment most likely to trouble the government, as Labour is backing it so it has a chance of passing. It would effectively seize control of the process from the government and open the way for votes aimed at finding a new consensus approach to Brexit -- possibly via maintaining closer ties with the bloc. It will be referred to as “Amendment I.”
The Powell Amendment
Sponsored by Labour’s Lucy Powell, this is an amendment to the Benn Amendment. It specifies a new Brexit date of June 30. If it’s passed, then the Benn Amendment will be voted on as rewritten to include the date.
The Corbyn Amendment
Supported by Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, this would take the specific dates out of May’s motion and simply tells her to seek enough time to find a new approach to Brexit. It will be referred to as “Amendment E.”
The Bryant Amendment
Labour’s Chris Bryant has put down an amendment saying the government shouldn’t be able to bring its deal back to Parliament for a third time. This is “Amendment J”.
What if one passes?
Bercow said that if Amendment H passes, I and E won’t be voted on. And if I passes, E won’t be voted on. If any amendment passes, then the final vote will be on the amended motion -- and that means the government might well order its lawmakers to vote against it. Otherwise, it will be on May’s motion.
(Updates with Labour backing.)
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