Indicative Brexit Votes Indicate Impasse
In footballing terms, the Brexit match has gone into extra time and penalties loom. Neither the “Brexit team” nor the “Remainers” seem able to get that crucial breakthrough which will force an outcome before blind luck (or the lack of it) takes over.
Last night saw the second set of “indicative votes” on proposals that have been put forward as an attempt at compromise. In the first round, none of the eight proposals on offer garnered a majority and this feat was repeated last night when four proposals were considered. The proposal which came closest to achieving a majority, by just 3, was a proposal by Conservative grandee Sir Ken Clarke which proposed a customs union with the EU. This was not the customs union with the bloc of course, but a customs union with the bloc. The EU hinted strongly that such an outcome could allow the UK to leave with a deal on May 22nd since it would allow the UK to benefit from transitional arrangements where it was both in and out of the EU simultaneously. The transition would be long enough (one hopes) to allow the differences between “a” and “the” customs union to be resolved.
A second plan getting an “honourable mention” was the Kyle/Wilson (and or Becket) plan which would require any deal passed by parliament to be ratified by the public in a confirmatory referendum with remain as an option. Its proponents pointed out that this motion actually garnered the highest level of support on the night. Campaigners for a further “Peoples Vote” remain buoyant that momentum in parliament and in the country generally is moving in their favour.
MPs were not required to vote for or against any motions (although some votes were whipped, meaning a party was instructing its members to back a particular position) and cabinet ministers were told to abstain.
Ideas for a “Common Market 2.0” and a requirement to revoke A50 within a day of a final “no deal” vote being rejected also failed to gain enough support. It is far from clear what the government’s position would be if any majority position had emerged, of course.
Despite May’s promise to resign if her withdrawal bill passed (it didn’t), some still anticipate that she will call a snap general election, under her leadership. Others point out that there is little appetite for a further election, which may solve nothing, and besides, the “fixed parliamentary terms” act makes it more difficult to engineer.
It is possible that a third set of indicative votes may take place on Wednesday and also not beyond possibility that May will re-present either the bare withdrawal bill or MV3 in the coming days.
Sterling remains surprisingly buoyant, but the Swiss Franc is strengthening as a safe haven currency.