Article26 March 2019Reading time 4 minutes

Brexit options facing UK lawmakers in six graphics

As parliament backs 'indicative votes' on different Brexit options, we take a look at the process, as well as the choices British MPs face, and what they would mean in practice

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Our guide to 'indicative votes' on the different Brexit options

On Monday evening, British MPs voted to take control of the Brexit process and allow time for indicative votes on alternative paths. This decision follows another bumpy few days in Westminster, where PM Theresa May has struggled to get the support she needs to get her Brexit deal through parliament.

The indicative votes process will kick-off tomorrow afternoon, and the big question is whether any single option can command a majority among lawmakers.  There is no preset list of options, and instead, lawmakers will be able to put forward their preferred choices, and the speaker of the House of Commons will select the most popular. Out of all the alternative paths, we suspect a permanent customs union is still most likely to emerge as the preferred option.

The indicative votes process will kick-off tomorrow afternoon, and the big question is whether any single option can command a majority among lawmakers

The process for these votes is still being decided. But one idea that seems to be gaining traction is to allow MPs to select all their favoured options on a piece of paper. The most popular ones would then go on to a second-round knockout stage (reportedly next Monday). The key advantage of this process is that it guarantees at least one option is selected at the end of it - although we would note that there is a risk that lawmakers put forward and settle on an option which isn't acceptable to the EU.

Whatever happens, none of these votes are binding, but if the government chooses not to action parliament's instructions, it's possible, lawmakers will attempt to pass new laws to force the prime minister to return to Brussels and change course.

The bigger question is whether PM May has the political capital to change course. Theresa May has been highly reluctant to seek cross-party consensus on Brexit, amid fears that this could split the Conservative party. If parliament opts to take Brexit in a 'softer' direction, then many Conservative Eurosceptic ministers and backbench MPs may be prepared to vote against the government in another no-confidence vote. Some commentators have also suggested that PM May herself may view an election as preferable if MPs back a second referendum or another unpalatable alternative.

One way or another, the next two weeks are going to be a 'tug of war' between the government and parliament. However, we think some form of 'softer Brexit' is still the most likely scenario to prevail, and this is likely to precipitate a further extension to the Article 50 extension period, assuming the UK accepts it must hold EU elections.

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The eight options on the table (there may be more)

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At a glance: The difference between the options

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What the Brexit options would mean for the economy

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Which option is most likely to succeed?

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How long would Article 50 need to be extended to facilitate an alternative path?

ING, Institute for Government All times are very rough estimates
ING, Institute for Government
All times are very rough estimates

The process for indicative votes is still to be confirmed

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