POLITICS
27/03/2019 10:15 AM AEDT | Updated 27/03/2019 9:02 PM AEDT

From Revoke Article 50 To Common Market 2.0, These Are The Alternative Brexit Plans Tabled By MPs

With parliament facing stalemate over Brexit, MPs have set out their alternatives to Theresa May’s troubled deal with Brussels as they seek to take control of the process. 

After a triumphant parliamentary revolt led by Tory grandee Oliver Letwin, MPs will hold a series of ‘indicative votes’ on a range of options that differ from the prime minister’s withdrawal agreement - which has already been voted down twice in the Commons.

On Tuesday night, backbenchers have rushed to table their preferences, with the direction they want the country to head including a ‘common market’ throwback to halting the process entirely.

Tellingly, the government has not put forward Theresa May’s deal as an option, or indeed tabled any motion. It was also unclear whether Tory MPs would be forced to toe the government line, amid reports the beleaguered PM faced a mass walkout of ministers if she failed to offer a free vote. 

Ultimately, speaker John Bercow, on Wednesday, will pick which of these face a vote. While the precise voting system is not yet known, it is thought MPs can vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to each proposition on a ballot, with the votes set to be counted the same day.

Here are some gathering momentum.

The Malthouse Compromise 

This asks MPs to back May’s current withdrawal agreement but with the controversial Northern Irish backstop to be replaced with ‘alternative arrangements’ that avoid a hard border.

Those arrangements would be negotiated with the EU but could include new technology, mutual recognition of rules or a “trusted trader” scheme that would avoid the need for physical checks at the border. 

This plan has been dismissed previously as “chasing unicorns” as the EU refuses to sign up to a withdrawal agreement without a Northern Ireland customs backstop plan. 

Tory Brexiteer Marcus Fysh, meanwhile, has tabled a motion for a ‘Malthouse plan B’ which would ask the PM to seek a “standstill” agreement with the EU while a trade deal is negotiated. 

Brexiteers may back them but Remainers will not. 

Common Market 2.0 

Also known as ‘Norway plus’, this aims to keep the UK very close to the EU.  The country would stay in the single market by remaining in the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) alongside countries such as Norway, and entering into a “comprehensive customs arrangement” with the EU. 

The motion, backed by MPs including Stephen Kinnock and Nick Boles, also advocates some curbs on immigration, such as stipulating EU migrants must be “genuinely seeking work” and have “sufficient resources” so they are not a “burden” on the system.

Labour MPs and Tory Remainers could unite behind this plan, and Jeremy Corbyn is weighing up whether or not to back it.

MPs worried about the Northern Ireland backstop may also be tempted to throw their weight behind it as EFTA membership makes it irrelevant.

Significantly, the plan has attracted some Brexiteer support, including Tory Andrew Percy. 

Common Market 1.0 

Similar to the Common Market 2.0 plan, this motion by former minister and Brexiteer MP George Eustice advocates joining EFTA and the European Economic Area, and by extension the single market - but rules out the UK entering into a customs union with the EU.

It has the support of many Tories but Labour MPs who fear dropping out of the customs union will hit industry may be hostile to the plan.

Labour’s plan 

Labour has tabled a motion proposing its plan for a close economic relationship with the EU.

This includes a comprehensive customs union with a UK say on future trade deals, close alignment on the single market and matching new EU rights and protections. 

It also advocates the UK playing a role in agreements on security, including access to the European Arrest Warrant, and participating in EU agencies and funding schemes. 

Revoke Article 50

This motion instructs the government to allow MPs to vote on the straight-up revocation of Article 50 should the UK be staring at no-deal. 

Given the online petition to revoke Article 50 and stop Brexit has attracted almost six million signatures, Bercow could be minded to pick it.

But its Commons backing, especially among Tory and Labour MPs with Brexit-voting constituencies, could have a ceiling.

Customs Union

One motion tabled by Labour MP Gareth Snell, whose constituency voted resoundingly to leave the EU, calls for May to negotiate a new UK-EU customs union. 

It stands a good chance of winning cross-party support, including among Tory backbenchers who have a strong manufacturing base in their constituencies. 

Labour’s Hilary Benn, meanwhile, has tabled a motion that would achieve essentially the same thing - a customs union - but via a different process. 

It calls for a customs union to be a negotiating objective in the future UK-EU trade deal - the next step in the Brexit process, after withdrawal is complete. 

Benn’s motion is significant for three reasons.

Firstly, it demands a “UK-wide” customs union - something which would negate the need for a Northern Irish backstop.

Secondly, it demands ministers write the negotiating objective into UK legislation, potentially giving MPs guarantees it will survive May’s premiership.

And thirdly, it has the support of Sir Oliver Letwin, the senior Tory who orchestrated the ‘indicative votes’ process, and is likely to garner wide cross-party backing. 

Second Referendum 

This will ask MPs to refuse to support any withdrawal agreement or UK-EU trade deal without the public’s say-so in a ‘confirmatory public vote’.

This is, for all intents and purposes, the motion for a second referendum. 

It has the backing of a huge chunk of Labour MPs, the SNP, some Tories and Chuka Umunna’s Independent Group of MPs. 

No-deal 

The hardline approach. Eurosceptic Tory MP John Baron has tabled a straightforward motion on leaving the bloc with no agreement in place. 

It says: “The UK will leave the EU on 12 April 2019 without a deal.” 

Baron has also put forward an option which sees the UK leave the EU on May 22 after rewriting the Irish backstop.

Brexiteer Tory Marcus Fysh, meanwhile, has tabled a motion for a managed no-deal. 

None of the above

And finally, Brexiteer Sir Bill Cash has tabled a motion which rules out the prime minister’s Brexit deal and indicative votes, and furthermore seeks to ban MPs from repeating the process without a two-thirds majority.