January 21, 2019 / 12:46 PM / 9 months ago

Factbox - UK PM's Brexit 'plan B': What happens next in parliament?

LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Theresa May will return to parliament on Monday to lay out her plans to break the deadlock over Brexit after her agreement with the European Union was resoundingly rejected last week.

An anti-Brexit protester is seen outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain January 17, 2019. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

After speaking to her ministers on Sunday, May looks set to focus on the Northern Irish backstop, an insurance policy that would prevent a return to a hard border between the British province and Ireland.

Brexit supporters in her Conservative Party and allies in Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party have called on May to either drop the backstop, negotiate a way for Britain to be able to end such an arrangement unilaterally or include a time limit so the country cannot be trapped in the EU indefinitely.

The EU has said the divorce deal, called the withdrawal agreement which contains the backstop, cannot be renegotiated.

Below is what is due to happen next in parliament:


May will make a statement and put forward a motion in parliament on her proposed next steps on Brexit. She will face questions, but parliament will not debate or vote upon the motion at this point.


After May has published that motion, lawmakers will be able to propose amendments to it. These will likely fall into two categories:

1) those seeking to change parliamentary procedure to break the deadlock through more radical means.

2) those designed to gauge support for alternatives to the prime minister’s deal.

Parliament is deeply divided over Brexit, with different factions of lawmakers supporting a wide range of options including leaving without a deal, holding a second referendum and seeking a customs union with the EU.

Some of the amendments will be attempts to shift control from May’s government to parliament, by changing the rules to give lawmakers outside of government the power to propose new legislation and force parliament to debate it.

If approved, this would change the long-held principle of the British parliament that the government has control of what is given the chance to become law.

Local media have reported that one such amendment, by Conservative lawmaker Dominic Grieve, would allow a motion put forward by a minority of 300 lawmakers from at least five parties, and backed by 10 Conservatives, to be given priority.

A second, more limited amendment seeking to pave the way for a discussion on legislation to delay Brexit is also expected to be submitted on Monday.

Such attempts have been criticised by some government ministers, with trade minister Liam Fox saying lawmakers could not be allowed “to hijack the Brexit process”.


Parliament will hold a day of debate on May’s proposed next steps and lawmakers’ amendments. They will not be asked to vote to approve a revised Brexit deal at this stage.

A vote in favour of changing the parliamentary rules could have a profound effect on the exit process, giving lawmakers who want to block, delay or renegotiate Brexit a possible legal route to do so.

Votes on alternative types of deal proposed by lawmakers should give an indication of whether there is any way forward supported by a majority in parliament.

May does not have to pursue any alternatives supported by parliament but would be under huge political pressure to do so.

If an option were approved by a majority of lawmakers, May could go back to the EU and seek changes to her Brexit deal. Parliament would ultimately still need to vote on any revised deal.

Reporting by Kylie MacLellan, William James and Elizabeth Piper; Editing by Janet Lawrence

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