|Author (Corporate)||Cardiff EDC|
Reports and analyses regarding political turmoil in the United Kingdom following the agreement reached between this country and the European Union on a withdrawal agreement and a political declaration on the post-Brexit relationship between the two sides. It includes the debate and votes by the House of Commons on the withdrawal agreement.
The British Prime Minister Theresa May faced harsh criticism following the announcement of a deal between the United Kingdom and the European Union on a withdrawal agreement and later on a political declaration on the post-Brexit relationship between the two sides.
Despite the acceptance by her cabinet of the draft agreement, several members of her team later resigned over the content of the deal. Ms May also faced strong criticism from the more Eurosceptic sectors of her own Conservative party. Northern Irish unionists also signalled they would not be able to support the draft agreement in Parliament. Multiple media reports pointed to the possibility of a vote of no-confidence in the House of Commons. Following the official endorsement of the draft agreements by the European Union, Ms May turned her focus to making sure the withdrawal deal would be approved by Parliament in the United Kingdom. However, analysts forecast the document would fail to collect a majority across the chamber.
On 4 December, the UK Government faced further defeats in Parliament, including a vote of contempt which forced the publication of the full legal advice provided by the Attorney General on the withdrawal agreement. Members of Parliament (MPs) also backed calls for the House of Commons to have a direct say in what happens should the agreement be formally rejected.
The UK Government announced on 10 December it would delay the vote at the House of Commons regarding the Withdrawal Agreement due to a lack of parliamentary consenus in favour of it. The Prime Minister also signalled she would go back to the European Union to seek further assurances on the so-called 'Irish backstop', which would keep a seamless border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in a no-deal scenario.
It was announced on 12 December that a number of Conservative members of Parliament had triggered an internal vote of confidence on Theresa May's premiership. The Prime Minister managed to hold on to power with 200 votes against 117. Despite her victory, Ms May announced on 13 December she would not seek to lead the party beyond the end of her mandate.
The parliamentary debate on the withdrawal agreement re-started in early January 2019. An amendment requiring a quick alternative to be brought to Parliament should the draft agreement be rejected was approved by a cross-party majority on 9 January. The debate was marred by criticism towards the Speaker of the House of Commons, who allowed such vote to take place. Attention also turned to the opposition Labour Party, amid uncertainty over the solutions offered by its leadership to the Brexit process. The so-called 'meaningful vote' was held on 14 January, which resulted in the rejection of the proposed withdrawal agreement by 432-202 votes.
Following the rejection of the withdrawal agreement by the House of Commons, the leader of the Labour Party tabled a motion of no confidence in the government, which was rejected on 16 January by 325-306 votes. As a result, Ms May launched cross-party talks to find an alternative solution for the way forward on Brexit before the deadline on 21 January. Political leaders from across the European Union called on the United Kingdom to quickly clarify its intentions.
On 29 January, the House of Commons voted on a number of amendments to the Withdrawal Act, two of which gathered a majority. One of them gives the Prime Minister a mandate to seek with the European Union a set of alternative arrangements to the so-called 'Irish backstop' (through the 'Malthouse compromise' which was agreed between different factions within the Conservative Party). The other rules out the possibility of a no-deal scenario for the UK's withdrawal from the European Union, even though this was merely indicative upon the Government.
However, yet another vote on 14 February - on a government motion asking the House of Commons to back its negotiating strategy - resulted in another cabinet defeat as parliamentarians refused to maintain the support indicated in the late-January vote.
On 11 March, it was revealed the UK government and the European Commission had agreed on further reassurances regarding some elements of the Withdrawal Agreement. This was concluded just before another meaningful vote in the House of Commons, held on 12 March. On that same day, the UK's Attorney General issued his legal opinion on the agreed Joint Instrument and Unilateral Declaration concerning the Withdrawal Agreement. The Parliament ultimately rejected the proposed agreement yet again, by 391-242 votes. On the next day, the Parliament expressed the view in another vote (321-278) that it did not wish to see the UK leave the European Union without an agreement under any circumstances. This outcome was also consequence of cabinet ministers not following their party indication for the votes. On 14 March, a majority of MPs endorsed the government's motion that would seek to delay the withdrawal from the European Union.
The Speaker of the House of Commons indicated on 18 March that he would not allow the same document to be put to a vote yet again, adding another layer of doubt over the ratification of the withdrawal agreement. On 20 March, the Prime Minister sent a letter to the President of the European Council formally requesting a three-month extension to Article 50 and later addressed the country to justify her likely inability to abide by her initial promise to deliver Brexit until the end of March 2019. The European Council agreed to an extension at a meeting on 21 March.
Members of Parliament voted on 25 March to take control (329-302) of the parliamentary timetable in an effort to find a majority for any Brexit option. The vote would led to votes being set up later in the week to find out what kind of Brexit gathered more support. The Prime Minister stated there was no guarantee she would abide by their wish. None of the proposed alternatives gathered a majority on 27 March. On 29 March, the government decided to put forward the Withdrawal Agreement - but not the related Political Declaration - once again for vote in Parliament. However, MPs rejected again the proposed deal (344-286).
On 1 April, MPs proceeded with another round of indicative votes and did not manage to reach a majority on any alternative proposal yet again. A proposed Customs Union came closest to a majority (273-276), while a proposed second referendum gathered the highest level of endorsement (280-292). On 2 April, following a cabinet meeting, the Prime Minister decided to reach out to the leader of the Opposition (Labour Party's Jeremy Corbyn) for a negotiated plan on the way forward.
As negotiations unfolded, Ms May formally requested on 5 April a further extension to the Article 50 process to the European Union. The proposal featured the 30 June as the new deadline, which would be subject to discussion by the EU27 at a special meeting of the European Council. EU27 leaders agreed on 10 April to a further extension until 31 October, which also required the UK to hold a European Parliament election if the withdrawal was not endorsed until 23 May.
Following another failed attempt to bring a version of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill for a vote in Parliament - as European Parliament elections were carried out in the UK and across the EU - Theresa May announced on 24 May she intended to resign in early June, allowing the Conservative Party to select a new leader and Prime Minister.
|Subject Categories||Politics and International Relations|
|Subject Tags||Brexit, National Politics|
|Keywords||Brexit [After the Referendum]
|Countries / Regions||United Kingdom|