There had been hopes that a shorter list of options chosen from the eight that were put to MPs last week would help identify a route forward that MPs could rally around.
Concerns that the United Kingdom could crash out of the European Union without a deal have risen after the House of Commons once again rejected all options put before it in a second round of indicative votes.
While the option of customs union membership was defeated by just 3 votes, the huge divisions within and across parties led the EU Parliament’s Chief Negotiator on Brexit Guy Verhofstadt to conclude that a hard Brexit seemed almost inevitable, warning that the UK had one more chance to break the deadlock of “face the abyss.” This comes just 11 days before the UK is set to crash out of the EU without a deal if no road forward is agreed.
There had been hopes that a shorter list of options chosen from the eight that were put to MPs last week would help identify a route forward that MPs could rally around. Alongside the customs union option, MPs voted on one that is referred to as the so-called Common Market 2.0—similar to the arrangements in place for Norway and the EU—with the UK remaining in the European Free Trade Association and the European Economic Area. This lost by 261 to 282. They also voted on requiring any deal to be subject to a confirmatory public vote (280 to 292) and a final one that would seek to avoid a no-deal Brexit by first requiring the government to seek an extension and if one were not granted, then revoke Article 50 (191 to 292).
Following the votes, Nick Boles, the MP who put forward the Common Market 2.0 proposal resigned from the Conservative Party on the floor of the House of Commons, blaming the failure to find a route forward on his party’s failure to compromise.
The failure to find a route forward is likely to harden the government’s position that its deal is the only one possible. Significantly, while both the Common Market 2.0 and the Customs Union proposals were put forward by Conservative MPs, their backing in the indicative voting process came from Labour, with the vast majority of Conservatives voting against it. Therefore, were the government to push through with one of these it would mean relying on the votes of opposition MPs rather than their own ranks,which is thought to be highly unlikely.
“The default legal position is to leave the EU in 11 days time,” concluded Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay, adding that the cabinet would meet on Tuesday to consider how to proceed.
Labour has called for all options to be considered by MPs in a debate on Wednesday.