Theresa May’s deputy has suggested holding X-Factor style knock-out votes on alternative Brexit plans if the prime minister’s beleaguered withdrawal deal is rejected for the third time.
A source told HuffPost UK that David Lidington floated the idea of holding so-called ‘indicative votes’ on a string of Brexit plans under the alternative vote (AV) system.
Sky News reported that the government has considered offering as many seven alternatives, including:
– the PM’s deal
– revoking Article 50
– a second referendum
– May’s deal plus a customs union
– May’s deal plus a customs union and single market membership
– a free trade agreement
– no deal.
A Number 10 source would only confirm that May remains committed to the process outlined by Lidington last week, in which he said the government would “facilitate a process... to allow the house to seek a majority on the way forward” in the next two weeks.
But Business Secretary Greg Clark confirmed that this would mean indicative votes.
And Brexit minister Kwasi Kwarteng said it would be “surprising” if the PM did not allow Tories free votes in any such system.
But cabinet minister Liz Truss suggested in a tweet she would oppose any plan for indicative votes and HuffPost UK understands that any decision would be opposed by a number of cabinet ministers.
Lidington is considering an instant run-off system which would see MPs asked to list their preference for a range of options.
Lidington’s dramatic bid to break the parliamentary logjam would see the traditional Commons voting system would be replaced by a series of ‘run-offs’ to find the one solution which commands most support.
The least popular option would be eliminated and a fresh vote held on those remaining, until a single solution is arrived at.
Many political parties use such multi-round votes for their own internal elections. In a bid to woo Tory support, one system proposed under the plan would be that used by the Conservatives to elect their party leader.
The plan was first proposed by Welsh party Plaid Cymru and later backed by the likes of Labour’s Helen Goodman and Tory grandee Ken Clarke.
It comes with the government facing potential defeat on a cross-party amendment which would allow MPs to seize control of parliamentary business to hold their own version of indicative votes.
MPs involved said the group still planned to push Tory Sir Oliver Letwin’s amendment to a vote on Monday unless the government makes more a concrete commitment to make time for indicative votes.
Another leading figure in the group, Labour’s Yvette Cooper, has also tabled a separate amendment to keep the government honest if it makes such a commitment.
Cooper’s plan would set a Thursday March 28 deadline for ministers to explain how they would avoid a no-deal Brexit, including by seeking a further delay to take into account the result of any indicative votes.
But it sparked an immediate backlash from Tory Brexiteers.
Steve Baker, a leading figure in the European Research Group of hardline Brexiteers, said indicative votes would be a “national humiliation”.
“The wrong Conservatives have the levers of power,” he added.
Baker’s ERG colleague Marcus Fysh meanwhile added: “This is the most ludicrous, childish and unrealistic idea I have ever seen. Utterly unfit.”
Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader, Liz Saville Roberts said: “The government is now openly exploring a process to allow parliament to take control – an effective admission that they have lost all authority.
“We will be continuing to push for a People’s Vote as a way out of this Brexit mess.”