Baffled by Brexit? Aren’t we all? Here’s a guide to what is ...

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Baffled by Brexit? Aren’t we all? Here’s a guide to what is really going on

With parliament and the major parties still hopelessly split, it's anyone's guess which will be the last plan standing

The Daily Telegraph


Theresa May’s plan: Leave with a deal
What is it?
The prime minister is seeking to revive her deal with Brussels after it was overwhelmingly rejected by MPs last week in a historic defeat. May has declined to say exactly what she intends to do, but aides believe that an amendment offering a “sunset clause” on the backstop – a hard date by which it must end – could help win over support for her deal.
Who supports it?
The government believes an amendment to the existing deal could help win over the Democratic Unionist Party’s (DUP) 10 MPs as well as a significant tranche of Tory Eurosceptics. Several Tories who failed to back her deal last week have said publicly that an assurance around the backstop would be sufficient to win them over. However, the prime minister remains under intense pressure to make sure any changes to the backstop are included in the withdrawal agreement itself, something the EU has ruled out.
Will it work?
Brexiteers fear that unless a sunset clause or a mechanism by which the UK could unilaterally exit the backstop are included in the deal itself, they would not be legally enforceable. If May is able to insert a new clause into the existing withdrawal agreement it would probably be enough to get her deal agreed by the Commons because a legally enforceable assurance remains the key Brexit red line for the DUP and many Brexiteer Tories. The question is whether May is willing to challenge the EU over its insistence that it will not reopen the withdrawal agreement. Anything less than a change to the legal text of the existing agreement is unlikely to win over enough Eurosceptics to get her deal agreed.
The hard Brexiteer plan: No-deal Brexit
What is it?
Under the terms of Article 50, Britain will leave the European Union on March 29 with or without any formal agreement. Brexiteers believe a no-deal divorce would represent the cleanest possible departure from the EU. They argue it would guarantee that the UK leaves on time and would allow Britain to take immediate control of its borders. They also say the £39bn Brexit bill would not have to be paid and the money could be spent at home instead.
In a no-deal Brexit, the UK would switch to trading with the EU on World Trade Organisation terms. Brexiteers say this could cause some short- term disruption but believe future trade opportunities with the rest of the world would be worth it.
Who supports it?
The European Research Group of about 60 Eurosceptic Tory MPs, which is led by Jacob Rees-Mogg, argues that fears of no-deal have been overhyped. Several potential Tory leadership candidates, including Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab and David Davis, have also said the UK could flourish under no-deal. Those supportive of no-deal believe it would provide the foundations for the swift signing of a Canada-style free trade agreement.
Will it work?
A perceived parliamentary majority against no-deal means the odds are stacked against the hard Brexiteers because MPs will do everything they can to stop the UK leaving without an agreement. But they do have two things in their favour. The first is that the Brexit date is enshrined in law and would require an act of parliament to change. The second is that there may not be a majority of MPs in favour of any one Brexit option and a no-deal Brexit remains the default.
Yvette Cooper’s plan: Extend Article 50
What is it?
Yvette Cooper, a senior backbench Labour MP, has tabled a bill that would force the government to request an extension of Article 50 and effectively rule out no-deal. The bill states that if May fails to agree to a deal by the end of February, the government must go to Brussels and request that Brexit is delayed by a default of nine months. The length of the extension, however, would be determined by MPs.
Who supports it?
Cooper’s amendment is supported by MPs from all five parties. High-profile Tory backers include Nicky Morgan, Oliver Letwin and Nick Boles. Other backers include Labour’s Liz Kendall and Hilary Benn, and Norman Lamb, a Liberal Democrat. It will also have the backing of an MP from Plaid Cymru and the SNP. The bill’s proponents believe there is widespread support on the Conservative benches, both within cabinet and without. As many as 20 Tory ministers are said to be prepared to quit if the government refuses to allow them to back the amendment.
Will it work?
There is no guarantee that Labour will back it. Jeremy Corbyn is giving it “serious consideration” but has concerns it could set a precedent and bind his hands if he becomes prime minister. Even if the amendment can gather enough support to pass, it would struggle to get through both the Commons and the Lords by February 26.
Dominic Grieve’s plan: Path to a second referendum
What is it?
Dominic Grieve, a Tory MP and former attorney-general, is planning to table an amendment that would enable a minority of MPs to seize control of parliament on Brexit. His amendment, supported by a cross-party group of MPs, would enable just 300 MPs, including only 10 Tories, to suspend government business and table a motion to be debated and voted on by the Commons, provided it is supported by the speaker. It would enable Remain MPs to table so-called “indicative votes”, testing whether there is a majority in parliament for a second referendum, a customs union or the revocation of Article 50.
Who supports it?
Grieve has declined to say publicly who backs his amendment, but it is understood it has the backing of many of those campaigning for a second referendum. He is expected to win the backing of 20 Tory MPs, including former ministers Anna Soubry, Jo Johnson and Oliver Heald. Many of those supporting his amendment are campaigning for a second referendum, including Labour MPs Chris Bryant, Chris Leslie and David Lammy.
Will it work?
There is likely to be significant debate about whether any motions tabled on Brexit are binding. John Bercow, the speaker who has enraged Eurosceptics, would play a pivotal role in deciding the remit of such amendments. The amendment could also have major constitutional ramifications amid speculation that the queen could be asked to veto it on the grounds it could bind ministers’ hands in Brexit talks.
Labour’s plan: A customs union or a referendum
What is it?
Jeremy Corbyn tabled an amendment on Monday night which will be voted on next Tuesday and which calls on ministers to make time for MPs to vote on at least two options designed to prevent a no-deal Brexit. The first is Corbyn’s plan to change the existing withdrawal agreement and political declaration to secure a permanent customs union and to preserve single-market access. The second is to hold a second referendum on a Brexit deal or a proposition that has been backed by a majority of MPs. Any public vote would be likely to have Remain on the ballot.
Who supports it?
Corbyn’s Brexit plan can count on the support of the majority of Labour MPs who, when whipped, will back it. Only a handful of Brexit-backing Labour MPs are likely to vote against it. It could struggle to secure the support of anyone else. However, some Labour MPs are likely to vote against it because of how poisonous a second referendum could be in Leave-voting Labour constituencies.
Will it work?
Corbyn’s Brexit deal is almost certainly doomed to failure. No Tory MP could vote for it simply because it has been put forward by Corbyn, and the other opposition parties are lukewarm at best. Corbyn’s initial amendment of offering MPs votes on the two options has a good chance of success but what actually happens in those subsequent votes is much more difficult to predict.

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