Downing Street has said that if Theresa May’s deal were voted down, any debate over a Brexit plan B would be 90 minutes long and only one amendment would be allowed.
The prime minister’s spokesman told reporters at Thursday morning’s lobby briefing that No 10’s understanding of the Dominic Grieve amendment – which requires May to outline a plan B in three working days if she is defeated – was that only a limited debate would then be allowed.
The spokesman said in relation to “the motion that would follow from the Grieve amendment, there would only be 90 minutes of debate on the motion is our understanding and only one amendment could be selected”.
The government was controversially defeated on Wednesday by 308 to 297 after John Bercow, the Speaker, allowed Grieve, a Conservative backbencher, to submit an amendment reducing the amount of time May would have to act.
Any Brexit plan B debate would be likely to be held in a crisis atmosphere with intense pressure on MPs to decide how to act, given that May’s deal would have been voted down.
MPs are also likely to want to submit a string of amendments for a second referendum or in support of a Norway-plus option of remaining in the singe market and customs union.
Downing Street said that it understood that it would have to table a motion outlining what it would do next by the evening of Monday 21 January, three sitting days after the May’s Brexit deal is due to be voted on by MPs next Tuesday.
But No 10 conceded its understanding of parliamentary procedure, derived from its own legislative team, could be overturned by Bercow. “Obviously these things are subject to interpretation by the speaker of the house,” the spokesman added.
The Labour backbencher and campaigner for a second referendum Stephen Doughty said: “After two defeats in two days where parliament has taken back control it would be extremely foolish for the government to continue to try to treat parliament with such contempt. They simply make themselves look increasingly desperate and devious.”
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