MPs Have Taken Control Of Brexit With Indicative Votes – But What Does That Actually Mean?

This is how the Commons plans to force Theresa May's hand.

MPs are set to vote this week on what sort of Brexit they would like – amid little sign Theresa May has any chance of getting her deal through the Commons.

Three government ministers resigned to back a move to hand parliament the power to hold the so-called “indicative votes” on Wednesday.

The aim is to see if there is an alternative Brexit route that can win the support of a majority of MPs and politicians from all sides will be invited to submit different proposals.

Sir Oliver Letwin, the senior Tory backbencher behind the plan, has said all “serious” alternatives should be considered.

But it will be up to Commons Speaker John Bercow to decide which options will be on the list.

MPs could be asked to choose between no-deal; a Canada-style free trade agreement; Labour’s plan for a customs union and close alignment with the single market; the so-called Common Market 2.0 proposals; a Norway-style close partnership with the EU; revoking Article 50; or a referendum on any of these possible outcomes.

Usually, MPs vote by walking through either the ‘aye’ or no’ lobbies in person to register their vote.

But in this instance all the options will be listed on slips of paper and MPs will be allowed to vote “yes” or “no” on as many options as they like.

It was thought the paper would be pink, the colour used for deferred votes in the Commons, but clerks are considering changing to a different colour to mark the historic process.

Voting will begin at 7pm on Wednesday and last for half an hour. The results are expected to be made public from about 9pm and it will be possible to know which MP voted for which option.

Backers of the Letwin plan are also proposing to seize control of parliament again on Monday to allow further votes on the most popular proposals - but they will again have to win a separate Commons vote to make sure this happens.

In the second round of voting, the system could be changed to a system where MPs list which outcomes they would accept in order of preference.

The hope is that this would then produce a Brexit compromise that a majority of MPs feel they can support.

But this does not mean Theresa May will then have to accept their decision.

The prime minister has said she will not feel duty-bound to enact what parliament indicates it wants.

If May does ignore parliament, MPs could order her to follow the Brexit plan they have chosen by passing new legislation.

Asked if the government would then have to do what the Commons said, Downing Street said today “of course ministers are bound by the law; but let’s wait and see what actually happens”.

The PM still hopes to persuade MPs to vote for her deal. If it is passed, then the UK will leave the EU on May 22.

If it is rejected, the UK is heading towards a no-deal Brexit on April 12. However, while no-deal is the legal default, May has essentially ruled that out.

Instead, she has warned there will be a “slow Brexit” involving a lengthy extension of Article 50.