The Conservative MP behind a series of indicative votes in the Commons has insisted the process could still find a consensus despite Wednesday night’s first attempt ending in deadlock, saying a final collapse of Theresa May’s deal would focus minds.
Eight votes on alternative Brexit options, put before the Commons after MPs seized control of the parliamentary process from the government, resulted in no majority for any of them, although the vote was close on one softer Brexit option.
Oliver Letwin, the Tory former minister whose amendment created the process, said this was to be expected, and that if May’s deal is defeated for a third time if put to MPs on Friday, this could forge unity if the only other option was no deal on 12 April.
The process that led to Wednesday’s debate and indicative votes has also allowed time for a second series of votes on Monday, which the Speaker, John Bercow, has said he will permit.
Labour’s shadow business secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey, said she also believed Wednesday’s lack of a majority was not terminal: It was a productive day for MPs. Although there was no majority for one particular option, I think it showed that there were areas of commonality.
She told Today: What’s imperative now over the next few days is that parties across the house work with each other to find reasonable compromises to try and navigate a way out of this.
At the same time, Conservative Brexiters said they had not given up on their plan. A proposal to leave the EU without a deal on 12 April, put forward by the Tory MP John Baron, lost by 160 votes to 400.
But Baron said this did not mean Britain leaving the EU without a deal on 12 April officially the Brexit date after the Commons voted on Wednesday to extend it from 29 March would not happen.
The indicative votes capped a dramatic day in Westminster during which May promised her MPs she would step down from No 10 for the next stage of the Brexit process if her deal is passed.
The pledge led a number of Tory Brexiters to promise to follow Jacob Rees-Mogg and back the plan, amid expectations it could be timetabled for Friday.
But soon afterwards the Democratic Unionist party announced it still could not back the plan, making success in the Commons much less likely.