House of Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom confirmed that the government would exclude from the vote, any decision on Britain’s future relations with Brussels.
The government adopted this approach in order to gain approval for a new vote of sorts from Commons speaker John Bercow, who has banned Ms May repeatedly bringing the same Brexit plans before MPs.
It comes after Ms Leadsom sparked speculation that the government was going to push on with a plan for a Brexit vote tomorrow, after she booked debating time for it this morning without revealing exactly what would be debated.
Theresa May’s Brexit deal contains two parts – the legally binding “withdrawal agreement” and the “political declaration” on the framework for future relations.
Under British statute, the government must have what is called a “meaningful vote” to approve both parts of the broader deal at the same time, and has already attempted this in what have come to be called MV1 and MV2, with Ms May losing both heavily.
As a result Mr Bercow said he would not permit the government to bring back a further MV3 vote, unless there is a substantial change to the proposition on offer.
Ministers gambled that they could meet his terms and push on with a vote, by excluding the political declaration part of the Brexit deal from the ballot, with the speaker having now confirmed that the vote can go ahead.
The other benefit of doing things this way is that simple approval of the withdrawal deal would allow Britain to leave the EU on 22 May – instead of the currently pencilled in 12 April – as long as other legal requirements are fulfilled in the coming weeks.
One government insider said: “[British law] says we will still have to have a meaningful vote before full ratification, but it can be done during after the passage of the Withdrawal Act Bill [the legislation locking the withdrawal agreement into statute].”
The government still faces the challenge of persuading enough MPs to back it, after the DUP said last night that it could not support Ms May’s deal at this point.
The prime minister promised Conservative MPs at a meeting of the backbench 1922 Committee on Wednesday that she would stand down if it meant they supported her plans.
Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said: “The problem going ahead with just the Withdrawal Agreement is it’s a completely blind Brexit. It tells you nothing about where you are heading.
“That’s been made a lot worse by Theresa May saying yesterday she is going to step down as Prime Minister, so we don’t even know who is going to take over and where they are going to take this.
“You can’t separate them, this isn’t going to work. It’s a desperate measure.
“What we really need to do is to step back and try to find where there is a consensus and a majority for a different approach.”
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