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25th Mar 2019

Parliament votes to take control of Brexit agenda

The Letwin amendment passes 329 to 302

Oli Dugmore

The Letwin amendment passes 329 to 302

In quite extraordinary circumstance, the House of Commons has voted to take control of the parliamentary agenda away from the government and initiate a series of indicative votes for how best to proceed with the Brexit process.

Indicative is the key part here. The government is under absolutely no obligation to follow through with whatever the house instructs, it can ignore the results.

Three government ministers resigned from the front bench so that they could support the Letwin amendment, which gives MPs the ability to put forward business motions on Wednesday. If more than one is put forward, the speaker John Bercow will decide which has “precedence.”

Then, whatever is happening in the Commons at 2pm on Wednesday will be interrupted for an hours debate of that business motion.

The ministers who resigned who in order to support the amendment are Richard Harrington, Alistair Burt and Steve Brine, while a total of 30 Tory MPs rebelled to vote it through.

In response to the result, 329 votes for versus 302 against, the government set a “dangerous precedent” had been set.

A spokesperson from the department for exiting the European Union said: “It is disappointing to see this amendment pass, as the government made a clear commitment to provide a process to find a majority in parliament for a way forward this week.

“This amendment instead upends the balance between our democratic institutions and sets a dangerous, unpredictable precedent for the future.

“While it is now up to parliament to set out next steps in respect of this amendment, the government will continue to call for realism – any options considered must be deliverable in negotiations with the EU. Parliament should take account of how long these negotiations would take, and if they’d require a longer extension which would mean holding European parliamentary elections.”

Leader of the Labour party Jeremy Corbyn praised the support of the amendment, and subsequent motion, saying it was now possible for the House to succeed where the government has failed.