London, United Kingdom – Just two days before the original Brexit deadline of March 29, the British parliament will attempt to break the impasse on Wednesday by voting on alternatives to Prime Minister Theresa May’s twice-rejected divorce deal.
What’s happening and why?
MPs voted on Monday to temporarily seize control over the Brexit process from May’s government.
As a result, the House of Commons will hold so-called “indicative votes” and explore if there is support for alternatives to the prime minister’s deal, which has twice been voted down by large majorities since the beginning of the year.
If May’s deal is passed, the UK will leave the EU on May 22.
If it isn’t and no alternative is agreed, the UK could still crash out of the EU without a deal on April 12.
If it stays on past that date, it will be required to hold European Parliament elections in May, a scenario the government wants to avoid.
The prime minister hopes to put her deal to parliament for a third time this week, but has admitted there is still not enough support for it.
The process has been instigated by a cross-party group of MPs, some of whom have resigned from the government in order to vote for the amendment on Monday.
What will MPs vote on?
Sixteen options were submitted by MPs on Tuesday evening, and it will be up to the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, to select the ones to be voted on at 3pm UK time today.
The vote itself will take place at 7pm UK time, and results are expected around 8:30pm.
MPs will be able to vote on more than one option.
These include a permanent customs union, the Labour Party’s alternative plan, revoking Article 50 to prevent no deal, a second referendum, leaving with no deal on April 12, and a “Norway plus” option that would continue free movement.
Are today’s votes decisive?
May does not have to do what the MPs vote for – the ballot is not binding.
While Wednesday’s votes might fail to indicate a clear majority for any of the proposed options, they could narrow the spectrum.
The Labour Party, which officially supports a second referendum, may not throw its full support behind it until a different deal to put to the public.
A million people marched through London on Saturday to ask for a second Brexit vote.
Meanwhile, the British press reported the EU was preparing to grant a year-long extension if the UK decided to ask for a long delay for a general election or a referendum. But nothing is set in stone.
Another series of votes is likely to be held on Monday. Before that, however, May is expected to hold another vote on her deal.
A number of Conservative MPs who previously rejected her withdrawal agreement, including the influential chair of the European Research Group (ERG) of Brexiter MPs, Jacob Rees-Mogg, have now said they are ready to support it, fearing other “soft Brexit” options or no Brexit at all.
There is increasing speculation that Conservative MPs will back the deal on the condition that May sets a date for her resignation.
Reporting by Ylenia Gostoli in London