Chancellor Hammond: Commons Must Reach Brexit Compromise Or Hold 2nd Referendum

Update 3: Following the Commons' latest failure to endorse an alternative to Theresa May's loathed Brexit deal, Philip Hammond, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, is once again pushing Parliament to at least consider - as he asked them to do a week ago as hundreds of thousands of Britons marched through London - the possibility of a second referendum.

Hammond is expected to appear before the Commons on Tuesday to demand that the body acknowledge that it has "failed" in its duty to deliver Brexit, and that if it can't come up with a compromise soon, it must "put it back to the people in a referendum" -  since the government can't afford another general election.

Meanwhile, a group of Brexiteers cabinet ministers are preparing to demand that Theresa May deliver "a final ultimatum" to the European if she hasn't tried that before.

We're sure Juncker is quaking in his jackboots.

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Update 2: Despite some rumors that the Nick Boles proposed Common Market 2.0 might garner a majority of votes with some Tory remainers and the SNP supporting it and Labour deciding to whip for it, once again, all four of the options tabled in Monday's indicative vote - the second in less than a week - have been rejected.

The question now is: Will the Commons give up on indicative votes after this? Or continue trudging ahead as the April 12 deadline looms. Cable tumbled on the headline as hopes for a consensus around a 'softer' Brexit have been dashed, once again reversing the prior session's gains as the currency continues to violently see-saw with every new development in the interminable Brexit saga.


Ironically, as one Tory MP pointed out, the PM's deal got more votes last week than any of the proposed alternatives on Monday. As one twitter wit pointed out, the vote still failed to produce a majority for any one proposal despite cutting the number of proposals in half (there were four on Monday compared with eight during Wednesday's vote), and including both the customs union proposal and the "common market 2.0".

In the first sign that the results of this vote will lead to even more instability and infighting in the Commons, at a time when more than 200 Tory MPs have reportedly signed a letter supporting a "managed" no-deal Brexit (despite the EU already having poured cold water on that option), Tory MP Nick Boles, who tabled the "Common Market 2.0" proposal, has resigned the Tory whip and will refuse to sits on the Commons as a Conservative, per the FT.

Nick Boles, a Tory MP who brought forward one of the options tonight, says he has given everything to try and find a way forward, but he accepts he has failed. That is chiefly because his party refuses to compromise so he can no longer sit with this party. He is crossing the floor to sit with the Opposition. MPs gasp as he rises to walk across the floor of the Commons.  

The DUP has confirmed that all 10 of its MPs voted against each of the proposals. Nigel Dodds, the DUP leader in Westminster, said the only proposal that could feasible garner a majority of support is the Brady Amendment - which was essentially a proposal to replace the Irish Backstop with a nebulous, unicorn-like promise to work something out. The EU has said time and time again that it won't accept any changes to the backstop, yet the DUP persists.

Ken Clarke, a. pro-European Tory who proposed the Customs Union plan, said his plan didn't get a majority because some people’s vote supporters would not back it because they only wanted to back a second referendum. Others wouldn't back it because they really wanted Common Market 2.0, even though they probably would have been happy with his plan, too. He added, with a touch of dry wit, that sometimes he thinks the Commons isn't very good at politics.

In any event, while Theresa May had again threatened to call another general election earlier, threats that the Commons apparently hasn't taken very seriously, it's likely that she will soon be forced to write to the EU to request another extension.

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Update: For anybody who's confused about the differences between May's deal and a 'softer' agreement that would open the door for a customs union, this graphic from infogram offers a clear visual breakdown:


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Tired of the Commons' interminable bickering and Theresa May's ineffectual leadership, Brussels warned last week that the UK will 'likely' leave Europe without a withdrawal deal on April 12 after the third 'meaningful vote' on May's withdrawal agreement failed by a margin of 58 votes. Though that margin has shrunk considerably since the first two votes, it's becoming increasingly clear that there's no way May can pass the deal, even if she does manage to bring it back for a fourth vote ahead of the emergency Brexit summit that begins on April 10.


What's worse, an 'indicative vote' on Brexit alternatives forced by backbencher MPs last week affirmed the Tory leadership's suspicions that no alternative to May's deal could garner a majority of support in the Commons, as none of the eight options on the ballot manged to secure a majority of votes (MPs were asked to vote 'yes' or 'no' on each listed option).



Though the indicative vote only further muddied the waters, the Commons is planning to hold another round on Monday, albeit with a slightly different slate of alternatives, as MPs reportedly rally around a 'softer' Brexit deal that would call for the UK to remain in the customs union after Brexit Day.

If this, too, fails, the likelihood that May will at least formally call for a general election, an option that she is loathe to consider, will rise. Though most Tories will likely insist that May step down before they support another general vote (last time around, when May called a general election in the summer of 2017, it ended up being perhaps the biggest political miscalculation of her tenure at No. 10).

Even if Monday's second indicative vote does produce a majority of support for a modified Brexit arrangement, it's doubtful that the EU would accept it so late in the game. May would likely need to ask for a lengthy Brexit extension - which she may or may not get.

In any event, the pound has rallied on Monday amid reports that at least 40 Tory MPs are preparing to support the customs union alternative, which is also expected to garner support from the opposition.


In a sign of just how frustrated May's team has become, Conservative Party Chief Whip Julian Smith attacked the Brexit strategy of May's cabinet during an interview with the BBC, where he said that the lack of support for Theresa May’s Brexit deal among the Tories has been the "worst example of ill-discipline in cabinet in British political history." Smith added that he is “knackered, dealing with colleagues 24/7,” and “frustrated” that lawmakers “don’t see the light as clearly as I do."

Before that, some 170 Tories, including 11 cabinet ministers, wrote to May on Friday urging a no-deal departure on April 12.

Debate begins at 3:30 pm (10:30 am ET), with voting expected to start around 8 pm  (3 pm). Here are the options that Speaker Bercow is expected to select (text courtesy of CNN):

Motion A, Unilateral right of exit from backstop -- This proposes that the UK shall leave the European Union on May 22 with the Withdrawal Agreement amended to allow the UK unilaterally to exit the Northern Ireland backstop.

Motion B, No deal in the absence of a Withdrawal Agreement -- This alternative calls for support from MPs for a no-deal Brexit if the House has not backed May's Withdrawal Agreement.

Motion C, Customs Union -- This motion calls on the Government to ensure that the Brexit plan includes a permanent and comprehensive UK-wide customs union with the EU.

Motion D, Common Market 2.0 - This proposal wants the Political Declaration - which covers the future relationship between the UK and the EU - to be renegotiated so that the UK joins the European Free Trade Association, through which is retains its membership of the European Economic Area, or Single Market. The UK would also seek to negotiate a "comprehensive customs arrangement" with the EU.

Motion E, Confirmatory public vote - Parliament would not be allowed to ratify any Brexit deal until it has been confirmed by a public poll.

Motion F, Public vote to prevent no deal -- Calls for a second referendum on exiting the European Union, if a no-deal scenario appears likely.

Depending on the outcome of today's vote, May could bring back her deal for a fourth vote as soon as Tuesday. Meanwhile, later this week, Parliament could try and pass legislation demanding that May ask for a longer Article 50 extension, and binding her to the option that emerges as the most popular alternative through the indicative vote process. Steve Baker, one of the leaders of the ERG, a group of Tory Brexiteers, has reportedly said that a proposal for a 'no confidence' motion in the government, something once advocated by Labour, is now on the table. Baker has also suggested resigning the whip, emboldening MPs to vote against their own government.

And though it's unclear exactly what might happen next, here's a rundown of the five most likely scenarios, prepared by RanSquawk:


(1) Parliament tries to force May's hand by agreeing an alternative Brexit plan: Speaker Bercow expected to choose options that did well at the previous indicative votes (customs union, second referendum). Risks: no majority prevails again; could be pointless if May presents her deal again in the wake, and it that passes.

(2) May brings her deal back: Talks continue to convince the dissenting Tories and DUP lawmakers (34 and 10 respectively), although it seems unlikely. However, May is pitting her deal against options which are unpopular to many Tories (A Norway model, or second referendum); but many of her Party would likely prefer a no deal.

(3) MPs vote for a second referendum (a confirmatory referendum on any deal agreed by Parliament). This was motion that garnered most support at last week’s indicative votes, though failed to generate a majority. Has opposition support, and still an option to be used as an amendment in future legislation. Limited Conservative support. Could be divisive for the country.

(4) No deal. Parliament fails to agree and the default remains the UK will leave the EU on 12 April, despite lawmakers having ruled-out this scenario in multiple votes previously. Unless a credible plan is presented to the EU by 10/Apr, there is a risk that some may be reluctant to accept any extension request, and therefore, an exit could happen by accident.

(5) May tries to call an election. This has been hinted before as a warning to back May; opposition has already called for an election. Could lead to the EU granting a longer extension, and the UK participating in EU Parliament elections 23-26 May.