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Will MPs get a free vote on alternatives to the PM’s Brexit plan?

25 March 2019

10:04 AM

25 March 2019

10:04 AM

A point of significant tension at this morning’s cabinet will be over whether the PM is to allow her ministers and MPs to vote with their consciences on the indicative votes today and tomorrow to find any Brexit – or no-Brexit plan – that a majority of MPs can support AND on the statutory instrument (SI) that will delay the 29 March date in law for exiting the EU.

Apparently the whips want a free vote on the SI, so ministers – including some of them – can vote against it and keep their jobs. And more remainy ministers – led by Greg Clark, Amber Rudd and David Gauke – want a free vote on the indicative votes, so they can signal their support for a softer Brexit or a referendum without losing their jobs. How will the PM jump?

Well the conspiracy theorists in her Government say she’ll whip on indicative votes – to maximise her chance of being proved right that there is no way through the Brexit mess that is more popular than her own unpopular deal. Because that would allow her to bring her own deal back to the Commons in that notorious third meaningful vote and present MPs with a stark choice between the supposedly orderly Brexit of her plan and the putative chaos of a no-deal Brexit on 12 April.

And the ministerial chat is she’ll give a free vote on delaying EU exit day to placate her Brexiter MPs – even though the Brexit postponement is government policy. Surely she won’t be so ruthlessly pragmatic.

Probably not – because were she to do so there would probably be mass resignations of remainy ministers. Although given that she is under such pressure to quit herself, the resignations of some of her internal critics may no longer be such a concern to her.

Robert Peston is ITV’s Political Editor. This article originally appeared on his ITV news blog

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