Indicative Votes

Since the last time we checked in on Brexit a mere 6 days ago, Britain has gotten a 2 week extension (with about 5 more for implementation if they can come to an agreement), the Democratic Unionist Party, May’s essential coalition partners, has said they will never accept a Customs Border between Northern Ireland and the UK, Brexiteers have made it clear that they will never accept an indefinite Irish Backstop…

And Parliament has voted to hold a series of votes on alternate, Parliament proposed plans which is a big deal because it’s normally a very “top down” institution.

Vox has a look at some of the suggested changes which are being tested in public to see if any can command a majority.

How the UK Parliament will try to break the Brexit impasse
By Jen Kirby, Vox
Mar 26, 2019

Here’s how these indicative votes are expected to work: MPs will put up a menu of Brexit options — a softer-style Brexit, such as membership in the EU customs union or single market; a second referendum; May’s deal; no deal; and so on. (The full slate hasn’t been agreed on yet.)

Indicative votes can play out a few ways, according to the UK’s Institute for Government. MPs can vote on Brexit options individually, supporting as many options as they might want, or they could be asked to rank their choices. The hope is that at the end, Parliament will rally around one option, which might offer a breakthrough on Brexit.

There are no guarantees, though. Parliament is divided, and has been throughout the Brexit process. Hardline Brexiteers desperately want to leave, and now. Remainers are seeking for a way to either reverse Brexit — through a second referendum, for example — or mitigate Brexit by seeking very close ties with the EU post-breakup. The rest of the MPs all exist somewhere in between.

But Monday marked a real turning point. Members of May’s party rebelled against the prime minister to support this measure, and joined with Labour members to seize the agenda. Parliament failed to approve a similar indicative votes measure by just two votes during that marathon vote week in March. Its win on Monday shows just how much May is losing her hold on her party, and her power.

A spokesperson for the government’s Brexit department expressed their displeasure in a statement after the vote, saying the amendment “upends the balance between our democratic institutions and sets a dangerous, unpredictable precedent for the future.”

“While it is now up to Parliament to set out next steps in respect of this amendment, the government will continue to call for realism — any options considered must be deliverable in negotiations with the EU,” the statement continued. “Parliament should take account of how long these negotiations would take, and if they’d require a longer extension, which would mean holding European parliamentary elections.”

May has lost some of her authority — but only up to a point. That’s because these indicative votes are nonbinding, so even if Parliament can rally around a brand new Brexit approach, the prime minister is not bound to honor the result.

May indicated as much ahead of the vote on Monday, saying that she was skeptical of the process and wouldn’t make any promises to act on the results of the indicative vote except to “engage constructively” with the outcome. Health secretary Matt Hancock echoed this on Tuesday, saying May’s government “can’t pre-commit to following whatever the Commons votes for because they might vote for something completely impractical.”

May also warned that just because Parliament agrees to something doesn’t mean the EU will go for it — although she left out the part where she tried multiple times to renegotiate her Brexit deal after the EU told her it was nonnegotiable.

But it’s not clear if May herself will get behind such a strategy, as it violates her Brexit “red lines” — essentially the UK’s starting point for negotiations — which included an end to its membership in the permanent customs union and the single market. And if she hasn’t budged yet, it’s doubtful she ever will.

Then again, she may not have a choice. The prime minister admitted Monday that she doesn’t have enough support to get her deal through Parliament right now — though she’s likely to try for a third vote this week, after the indicative votes.

May could be betting that the outcome of the indicative votes will scare the hardline Brexiteers and her allies in Northern Ireland enough to finally get behind her deal, or risk much closer ties with the EU — and possibly a much, much longer Brexit delay.

It’s unlikely that any proposal can muster a majority which leaves but a few possibilities- crash out April 12th, seek a longer extension, May resigns.

I must say that I don’t quite see the objection to a longer extension except that Britain could be forced to hold Elections for Members of the European Parliament in May (the month not the Prime Minister) and for some reason that infuriates the Brexiteers. Maybe because they’d suffer embarrassing losses, they’re all huffy about a Second Referendum being some kind of “betrayal of Democracy” too.

The DUP has indicated they’re good with a year or more so you’d think it would be case closed.