View all newsletters
Sign up to our newsletters

Support 110 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. Brexit
25 March 2019updated 08 Jul 2021 11:50am

Is today the day that Parliament finally takes control of Brexit?

By Stephen Bush

The Cabinet is meeting to discuss a way forward on Brexit. The essential question is: do they want to be the author of a process of indicative votes – in which MPs vote on a series of Brexit options to gauge which, if any, commands the support of a majority in Parliament – or its victim? 

One way or the other, MPs are going to find a way to hold their own votes on the question. The last amendment to do exactly that failed by just two votes, and there are more than enough MPs who are planning to support it this time to secure its passage.

Also on the agenda at Cabinet: the fate of Theresa May as Prime Minister. The problem that anyone seeking to get rid of May has is that, without May’s co-operation and a managed succession, there simply isn’t time.

The view among those who know, both among CCHQ staffers past and present, and several former staff at Electoral Reform Services, who would have to run the ballot, is that you cannot conduct a leadership contest between now and 12 April, the new Brexit deadline. The process of balloting Conservative members would run past that. You cannot go past that date without European elections, which a majority of MPs are desperate to avoid. So all May has to do if she wishes to stay is to be stubborn, unyielding and unresponsive, all qualities that come naturally to her.

The more important question about those looming indicative votes isn’t ”What’s going to happen to Theresa May?”  but ”What are the anti-Brexit parties going to do?”. The SNP and Plaid Cymru are all enjoying an improved poll performance, not exclusively, but partly, because they have a clear message to Labour Remainers in Scotland and Wales respectively. The Liberal Democrats and the Independent Group aren’t doing as well in England yet but they have enjoyed a degree of success in the polls; the Liberal Democrats had a reasonably successful set of local elections last May and are hopeful of repeating the performance in this set. 

So it’s difficult to see how any of those parties can ever support a softer Brexit – but as it stands, it is even more difficult to see where the votes are going to come from in the two major parties to deliver a second referendum. After months of threatening to take control, Parliament may well be about to demonstrate that it has no better idea of what to do with it than the Prime Minister does.

Content from our partners
Unlocking the potential of a national asset, St Pancras International
Time for Labour to turn the tide on children’s health
How can we deliver better rail journeys for customers?

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team. The best way to sign up for The Green Transition is via
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.