The UK Parliament voted on the amendments of the PM Theresa May’s Brexit deal, which they have rejected two weeks ago. Among the seven amendments selected by John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons, for debate and vote, the so-called Copper plan and Brady plan caught most attention. Defeat of the former and passage of the latter has caused rather rigorous fluctuation in the pound.
The so-called Cooper amendment was proposed by Labor Party’s MP Yvette Copper. Trying to extend the official Brexit deadline to December 31, from the current March 29, the bill sought to rule out a no-deal Brexit by giving the government more time to reach a formal agreement with the EU. It was defeated by a vote of 321 to 298. Rejection of the bill signals that a no-deal Brexit is not ruled out.
On the other hand, Conservative MP Graham Brady proposed to replace the Irish backstop solution by “alternative arrangement”. This was passed by a vote of 317 to 301, Meanwhile, another Conservative MP Dame Spelman’s non-binding amendment to reject the UK leaving the EU without a deal was passed by a majority of 8.
The outcomes of the votes mean that PM May would have to return to EU for negotiation of the hardest part of the Withdrawal Agreement – the Irish border. EU’s immediate response was blunt, noting that the backstop was “part of the withdrawal agreement, and the withdrawal agreement is not open for renegotiation”. Indeed, renegotiation would also raise more uncertainty as other EU members might demand the UK to make concession on other issues, such as the fishing rights.
PM May would meet with the EU next month, after which the Parliament would have another Brexit debate and vote on February 14. We see limited room for the EU to change stance on the Irish border issue. This might open another chance for extension of Article 50, force the MPs to consider other post-Brexit relationship with the EU and lead the Government to reconsider holding a second referendum.