The ‘mean­ing­ful vote’ the na­tion hopes will start to dis­pel uncer­tainty

The Daily Telegraph - - Countdown To Brexit - By Jack Maid­ment PO­LIT­I­CAL COR­RE­SPON­DENT

WHEN MPS vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal they are likely to fire the start­ing pis­tol on the most tu­mul­tuous three-month pe­riod in re­cent British po­lit­i­cal his­tory.

No­body knows for cer­tain where the UK will end up by March 29 but the jour­ney starts with what hap­pens to­mor­row night.

Here is an as­sess­ment of the pos­si­ble out­comes of the House of Com­mons “mean­ing­ful vote” to­mor­row.

The vote does not hap­pen

Be­fore the vote, MPS will vote on a se­ries of amend­ments. One is more sig­nif­i­cant than the rest be­cause it could give the PM a way of sav­ing face.

The amend­ment, tabled by Hi­lary Benn, a Labour back­bencher, would re­ject Mrs May’s deal and rule out a no-deal Brexit.

If agreed, the mean­ing­ful vote it­self would likely not go ahead be­cause MPS would tech­ni­cally have al­ready re­jected the deal.

Mean­while, the mar­gin of de­feat would be small be­cause Tory Brex­i­teers will not sup­port tak­ing no deal off the ta­ble. The mean­ing­ful vote not tak­ing place would buy Mrs May time to con­sider her op­tions.

The PM wins

Just about ev­ery­one in West­min­ster be­lieves that Mrs May will lose. A vic­tory for the PM would rep­re­sent one of the big­gest po­lit­i­cal shocks of mod­ern times.

A win – no mat­ter how nar­row – would so­lid­ify her po­si­tion, si­lence her crit­ics and set the UK on course to leave the EU in an or­derly fash­ion.

A nar­row de­feat

A loss by fewer than 20 votes would be enough for Down­ing Street to open the cham­pagne.

Even the most op­ti­mistic of gov­ern­ment aides think that such a re­sult is highly un­likely, but a nar­row de­feat would give a huge boost to Mrs May.

It would keep her deal very much alive and give her hope of win­ning a sec­ond vote, po­ten­tially by piv­ot­ing to a softer Brexit to se­cure the sup­port of enough wa­ver­ing Labour MPS to get her over the line.

De­feat by 20 to 100 votes

A large de­feat would put Mrs May’s deal on life sup­port and likely set up a trip to Brus­sels in search of ma­jor con­ces­sions be­fore an­other try.

Don­ald Tusk, the pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Coun­cil, could also seek to al­le­vi­ate pres­sure on the PM by of­fer­ing to ex­tend Ar­ti­cle 50.

A crush­ing de­feat: more than 100 votes

Re­cent anal­y­sis sug­gested Mrs May could lose by 228 votes – the big­gest de­feat on record. Such a loss would guar­an­tee Jeremy Cor­byn trig­ger­ing a vote of no con­fi­dence by the end of the week and con­ven­tional wis­dom would sug­gest the PM would have to con­sider quit­ting – es­pe­cially if the mar­gin was over 200.

But given her de­ter­mi­na­tion to stay on she could opt to tear up her plan and of­fer MPS the in­dica­tive votes on dif­fer­ent Brexit op­tions which many have called for.

She could also con­sider more dras­tic op­tions: try to pur­sue a no-deal Brexit; a ref­er­en­dum on her deal ver­sus no deal; or a gen­eral elec­tion.

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