LONDON: The British parliament is set to hold a debate on Brexit on February 14 but this is not a re-run of a vote last month on whether to approve the exit deal Prime Minister Theresa May’s negotiated with the European Union.
May is seeking changes to her deal with Brussels after it was rejected by a record majority in parliament on January 15. She has said she wants to bring a revised deal back to parliament for a vote “as soon as possible” but has not yet set a date for doing so.
She has promised that, if she has not brought her deal back for a so-called “meaningful vote” by February 13, lawmakers will get to debate Brexit on February 14.
Below is what will happen on that day:
WHAT WILL THEY DEBATE?
May will make a statement to parliament on February 13 updating lawmakers on her progress so far in seeking changes to her deal.
The debate on February 14 will be on a motion — a proposal put forward for debate — about Brexit more generally. The previous similar debate on January 29 was on a motion which simply asked lawmakers to agree that they had considered May’s latest statement on the Brexit negotiations.
CAN LAWMAKERS PROPOSE CHANGES?
Yes. As with the January 29 debate, lawmakers will be able to propose changes, known as amendments. It is likely that many amendments similar to those debated on January 29 will be proposed, including attempts to shift control of the process away from government and give parliament a chance to define Brexit.
As with January 29, if these are successful they could have a profound effect, giving lawmakers who want to block, delay or renegotiate Brexit a possible legal route to do so.
With the EU saying so far that they are not willing to reopen talks on the Withdrawal Agreement, other lawmakers are likely to propose alternatives to May’s deal to gauge support for them and persuade the prime minister to change course by seeking closer EU ties or holding a second referendum.
An attempt by Labour lawmaker Yvette Cooper and Conservative Nick Boles to give parliament the power to request a delay to Britain’s March 29 exit was defeated by lawmakers on January 29, but Boles said he would renew that effort on February 14 if a deal has not been passed by then.
The government persuaded many lawmakers not to support that previous attempt by promising them that it would not be their last chance to seek to stop a ‘no-deal’ departure from the EU as they would get to debate Brexit again on February 14.
On Wednesday, a Conservative lawmaker involved in discussions with the government about changes to the deal said that if May could demonstrate that the EU was willing to renegotiate, she would buy herself some more time and avoid a potential flashpoint in parliament on February 14.
WILL THERE BE VOTES?
The Speaker, John Bercow, will decide whether to select any of the amendments for a vote. Lawmakers will vote on each of the selected amendments one by one, before voting to give final approval to the wording of the motion itself.
Before the debate begins, lawmakers will have to agree to the proposed timetable for the debate, currently just one day.
If lawmakers believe that more than one day is needed, the votes could in theory be pushed into the following week.
WILL IT DEFINITELY GO AHEAD?
If May succeeds in winning changes to her Brexit deal in the next few days she could bring it back for a debate and vote before February 14, and this more general debate would not go ahead.
However she is not expected to secure any changes before then.
British media have reported a fresh vote on May’s deal is most likely to happen in the week of February 25 at the earliest.
The government will give parliament another chance to debate the issue by February 27 using the same format described above, if a deal has not been agreed before then.