Having written early last week about the latest round of Brexit votes on the set of amendments tabled by senior MPs and Select Committee Chairs in the House of Commons and the all-important role of the Commons Speaker in selecting which amendments are debated and voted on, Speaker Bercow did not disappoint selecting seven amendments.
Following extensive debate leading up to 29th January five of the amendments were defeated including the Yvette Cooper amendment, which many people saw as a means of legislating to prevent a No-deal Brexit assuming no deal was approved by MPs by the end of February. Nonetheless this amendment was defeated as 14 Labour MPs broke their own party whip to oppose it and a further 8 abstained.
The two amendments which were passed included a non-binding motion tabled by Dame Caroline Spelman and Jack Dromey. 2 West Midlands MPs from the Conservatives and Labour, both keen to prevent a no-deal Brexit largely due to the impact it would have on the automotive sector in their region. Whilst non-binding, this does show that when subsequent votes come next week on 14th February, MPs will not endorse a no-deal exit.
The Graham Brady amendment which was also passed by MPs basically united Conservatives, the DUP and some key Labour rebels who are keen to not frustrate Brexit. The amendment set out that much of Theresa May's original deal would be approved assuming 'alternative arrangements' could be found to replace the Northern Ireland backstop. With 7 Labour MPs supporting this and a further 3 Independent MPs (formerly two Labour and former Lib Dem MP Stephen Lloyd) also backing it, it did highlight that if any sort of agreement could be found with the EU on the backstop, a deal could perhaps be approved by MPs, albeit narrowly, given that Labour MPs in Northern and Midlands Brexit voting seats are not willing to delay or frustrate Brexit in any way.
This is disappointing clearly for Liberal Democrats and supporters of either a soft Brexit or a second referendum. We await further developments in the next week to see if the EU will budge in any way to enable Theresa May to secure a majority in the House of Commons for an amended Withdrawal Agreement. Many MPs and commentators feel yet again the PM is merely kicking the can down the road as the clock ticks down ever closer to 29th March. Even if a deal was agreed by both the UK parliament and the EU 27 - which seems unlikely - then surely an extension to Article 50 would be required to pass all the necessary legislation.
In other news, after the campaigning efforts of so many female MPs like Harriet Harman, Tulip Siddiq and our own Jo Swinson to secure Proxy voting for MPs on Baby leave, this was finally approved by MPs on Monday 28th January and formally came into force the following day, with Tulip Siddiq voting by proxy following the birth of her son on 17th January.