British Members of Parliament (MPs) have agreed to vote on four alternative proposals for withdrawing from the European Union (EU). Voting on these proposals is due to begin at 8:00 p.m. local time, with results expected around two hours later.
Two of the motions under debate include a customs union that will keep the United Kingdom (U.K.) in a close relationship with the EU, but crucially will not allow the country to negotiate its own trade deals or to set tariffs and will require the free movement of people, so British citizens would keep the right to live and work in the EU and vice-versa.
Motion C was moved by Conservative Ken Clarke and came within eight parliamentary votes of being approved in the initial indicative votes on 27 March.
Another customs union motion forms part of Motion D proposed by another Conservative, Nick Boles. This motion is also known as “Common Market 2.0.” Boles’ proposal calls for the UK to join the European Free Trade Association and European Economic Area (EEA), with countries such as Iceland, Norway and Switzerland. The EEA includes Austria, Belgium, Cyprus and Denmark, among others that are also all members of the EU.
The motion will keep the U.K. in the EU single market and, like Motion C, would retain the freedom of movement. This motion has gained the backing of the Labour and Scottish Nationalist political parties.
Labour MPs Peter Kyle and Phil Wilson are proposing to give the electorate a confirmatory vote on any deal that is agreed to by Parliament with their Motion E.
In last Wednesday’s debate a similar motion was presented by former Labour minister Dame Margaret Beckett, and that option won the highest number of votes, with 268 MPs for and 295 against.
Finally, Motion G is proposed by Scottish National Party MP Joanna Cherry and offers a series of steps to prevent the U.K. from withdrawing from the EU without a deal.
In the first instance, it requires the government to seek an extension if a deal has not been agreed two days before the deadline for leaving, which would now mean by 10 April.
If the EU does not agree to an extension, on the day before the U.K. was due to leave, MPs would be asked to choose between a no-deal Brexit or revoking Article 50 to stop the U.K.’s withdrawal.
If Article 50 is revoked, an inquiry would be held to establish what type of future relationship with the EU would command majority support in the U.K. and be acceptable to Brussels.
Cherry’s previous motion only rejected a no deal Brexit and MPs voted against that proposal, but MPs have not considered this more comprehensive plan.
These votes are only indicative and are, therefore, not legally binding on the Government. However, many commentators believe it will be difficult for Prime Minister Theresa May to ignore Parliament.