MPs vote for an extension but this parliament is no closer to resolving Brexit than before

Conservative MPs don’t want any of the Brexits that could command a majority in this parliament – but don’t want an election either.

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MPs have voted by an overwhelming margin to endorse Theresa May’s proposal to seek an extension to the Article 50 process.

The Speaker of the House, John Bercow, opted not to select an amendment that would have sought a longer extension than the one envisaged by Theresa May, or one that would have shortened the timeframe below even the 30 June date proposed by May.

That avoided testing the will of the Commons as far as the genuine length of the extension, which will be set by the other 27 nations of the European Union and is as yet unknown which could potentially have set up an awkward stand-off, or convinced the other member states that British politics are now so dysfunctional that a no-deal Brexit is inevitable.

But just 131 Conservative MPs backed an extension, which highlights the difficulty of reaching a Brexit accord with this parliament: there is no arrangement capable of securing a reliable majority from both the majority party and a majority of MPs.

Although most Tory MPs are loath to use the extension for another election, there is also a great deal of opposition to using it to soften Brexit or to hold another referendum. But one of those things is going to have to happen because as long as this parliament remains in place there will be a majority against the one other resolution to the Brexit deadlock: a no deal exit.  

Stephen Bush is political editor of the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics. He also co-hosts the New Statesman podcast.

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