Crunch time: How the many Commons factions will vote on Brexit
The deal struck in Brussels faces a tough test in the British parliament. This is how all the camps weigh in
The Brexit deal agreed by EU leaders on Sunday now faces the daunting task of approval in the British parliament, where it faces stiff opposition from all sides.
Here are the main camps in the fractious 650-seat House of Commons, where a crucial vote is expected next month:
• European Research Group: An alliance of hardline pro-Brexit Conservatives vociferously opposed to the deal. Comprising 60 to 85 Tory lawmakers, the group is chaired by Jacob Rees-Mogg and supported by former cabinet heavyweights Boris Johnson and David Davis.
The group favours a Canada-style free trade agreement or leaving with no deal. It recently tried to force a vote of no-confidence in the prime minister, but failed to muster the 48 signatories needed to initiate a leadership contest. That led the mainly male faction to be mockingly dubbed “Dad’s Army” (the name of a BBC television sitcom about hapless Home Guard soldiers during World War 2).
• The Labour Party: Most of Labour’s 257 lawmakers are fervently pro-EU and will, along with party leaders, oppose UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s deal. Their plan is to try and trigger a general election or, if not, push for a second referendum. The People’s Vote campaign, which has been organising a co-ordinated nationwide push for another poll, draws support from arch-Remainers in both the Labour and Conservative parties.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – who survived a 2016 no-confidence vote brought by Labour MPs disgruntled at his tepid support for the EU – opposes May’s plan but has been less enthusiastic on a referendum rerun.
• The SNP: The Scottish National Party’s 35 MPs – the biggest block after the ruling Conservatives and opposition Labour – are firmly pro-EU and oppose May’s agreement. The party wants the UK, or just Scotland, to stay in the single market and customs union, and has vowed to hold another independence vote without that outcome.
It has been non-committal on supporting a second referendum.
• The DUP: Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), whose 10 MPs give May a slim majority in parliament, are ardent Brexit backers – and against her plan. With an uncompromising reputation, the party withdrew its support for other government legislation earlier this week in a warning protest but has so far held off on moving to bring down the government.
It is incensed by the so-called backstop arrangement to prevent a potential hard border with Ireland and wants the British province treated identically to the rest of the UK.
• Conservative arch-Remainers: Some Conservative MPs remain opposed to Brexit and unconvinced by May’s plan. An even smaller number, perhaps a dozen, want a second poll. This grouping includes former ministers Justine Greening and Jo Johnson, as well as former attorney general Dominic Grieve.
• May loyalists: The bulk of the Conservatives’ 315 MPs are likely to back the prime minister’s plan. They are a mix of political pragmatists, pro-Brexit moderates and unconvinced Remainers scared of crashing out of the EU next March with no deal.
Some cabinet members, including Brexit architect Michael Gove, are thought to harbour serious doubts – reportedly shared over pizza at a recent meeting. Although they are expected to back the deal in parliament, or face having to resign their posts, the support of the so-called “Pizza Club” is seen as tepid at best.
• Lone wolves: The opposition Liberal Democrats are among the most pro-EU parties, but one of their 12 MPs, Stephen Lloyd, has broken ranks to back May’s package. Caroline Flint, a pragmatist Labour MP representing a Brexit district, could also support May to avoid the risk of no-deal.
Although reports suggest a small number of other Labour Remainers could also back the plan, she is the only one to have publicly indicated she will. In an article in The Guardian, she vowed “to do what I believe is in the best interests of my constituents and the country”.
• Labour Leavers: A small band of opposition Labour lawmakers has wholeheartedly backed Brexit, in contrast to the party leadership’s more ambiguous stance. The left-wing Brexiteers include London MP Kate Hoey, Manchester lawmaker Graham Stringer and Birmingham MP Roger Godsiff.
They could support May’s plan in parliament next month, but could also prefer leaving without a deal. Hoey said this week she disliked the “despicable” Northern Irish backstop, suggesting she may vote against.