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.
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.
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.
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.