A minute-by-minute guide to UK Parliament votes


“The ayes to the right...” That’s how Speaker of the House of Com­mons John Ber­cow will be­gin an­nounc­ing the re­sult of the vote that could de­ter­mine Bri­tain’s fu­ture, and could very well seal Theresa May’s fate.

But amid the flum­mery of the Bri­tish Parliament, where members can­not ad­dress each other by name, and the se­cu­rity is pro­vided by men in tights, how can you tell who’s ac­tu­ally won and lost? Even vet­er­ans of the sys­tem can be caught out by pro­ce­dure, and lately they’ve been dis­agree­ing about whether May can pull the vote at the last minute.

Dead­line: 19:00

By Tues­day evening, Parliament will have been de­bat­ing May’s Brexit deal for five days. Dis­cus­sion is sup­posed to stop at 7 p.m. Lon­don time. Watch whether the minister wind­ing up the de­bate for the gov­ern­ment keeps speak­ing past then. In the­ory, that would mean the vote was aborted, though Ber­cow might not al­low that kind of get-out.

The mo­tion

To get her Euro­pean Union (With­drawal) Act through ear­lier in the year, May agreed to give Parliament a “mean­ing­ful vote” on the deal. The House of Com­mons doesn’t usu­ally vote on in­ter­na­tional agree­ments, so the pro­ce­dure in this case has been made up on the hoof. May has laid an eight-line mo­tion say­ing that Parliament ap­proves the deal.

Amend­ments First

But be­fore they can vote on the mo­tion, law­mak­ers de­cide if they want to mod­ify it. There will be as many as six votes on amend­ments. Which ones get cho­sen is up to Ber­cow, and he an­nounces his de­ci­sion on Tues­day. He might group com­ple­men­tary ones to­gether for a sin­gle vote. You can see all the pos­si­ble amend­ments on the or­der pa­per, which is up­dated each morn­ing, un­der “Busi­ness of The Day.” To find out which amend­ments have been se­lected, check the House of Com­mons Twit­ter feed, or the Labour Whips feed, which is of­ten more in­for­ma­tive.

‘The ques­tion is...’

Ber­cow will an­nounce what they’re vot­ing on. Amend­ments for this vote are be­ing iden­ti­fied by let­ter.

‘As many as are of that opin­ion...’

Ber­cow will then in­vite sup­port­ers of the amend­ment to shout “Aye!” and op­po­nents to shout “No!” If ei­ther side doesn’t shout, the other side wins by de­fault.

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