MPs have narrowly opted against enforcing further indicative votes on the government, but have voted to seize control of the legislative timetable, potentially opening the door to passing a bill that would require Theresa May to put forward a proposal to extend the Article 50 process, delaying the moment when the United Kingdom would have a no deal exit.
In the vote on whether to hold more indicative votes, the House tied, with 310 MPs voting on both sides. As the Speaker of the House does not by convention create a majority where none exists, John Bercow cast his casting vote against the motion. In the vote on whether to rewrite the legislative timetable in order to allow Yvette Cooper’s bill to delay no deal, Gareth Snell, a Labour MP, switched his vote, so that passed by 311 to 310.
In both cases, the Prime Minister has already conceded that she will have to hold further indicative votes and that she will need to request an extension to Article 50. What is striking is that 14 Conservative MPs – and Nick Boles, elected as a Conservative but now sitting as an independent – voted against the government on both occasions.
While you can make a pretty good argument that MPs are right not to take Theresa May at her word, it is striking in the extreme that of the 35 Conservative MPs to have previously voted to soften Brexit, 14 of them are no longer willing to do so. That lack of trust has a counterpart among Conservative MPs who want a Brexit as hard or harder than May’s proposals. The atmosphere of distrust on the Conservative benches could yet spell doom for May’s deal.