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