A great synopsis for those with any energy left to follow it! (which is probably a ploy being played)

Top chart sets out what will happen in parliament on 29 Jan, listing government's options

First a quick recap. The government originally planned for MPs to vote on Theresa May’s deal on 11 December. That was postponed until the new year and, after surviving a leadership challenge from Conservative MPs, Mrs May returned to the House of Commons for the vote on 15 January.

The historic defeat by a majority of 230 votes was followed on 16 January by a vote on a motion of no confidence. This time the prime minister prevailed with a majority of 19.

The 29 January debate is about how the government has responded to the rejection of its deal. MPs have tabled various amendments setting out what they think should happen.

These are some of the possible options.

1. Second vote in Parliament on current or adjusted deal

Several of the MPs’ amendments were designed to show conditional support for the Brexit deal.

The argument is that MPs would back it if there was a major change to the controversial “backstop” – the part of the withdrawal agreement aimed at guaranteeing there is no hard Irish border – or if the backstop was removed completely.

Flowchart explaining process for a second vote on the original or modified deal
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If, for example, Sir Graham Brady’s amendment passed, it has been suggested that Theresa May could go back to Brussels and argue that the only way to get the deal through Parliament would be if such a change was accepted by the EU.

Whether or not the EU agreed, the next step would be to return to the Commons for a second “meaningful vote” where MPs would decide again whether they backed the deal with any new adjustments in place.

If there are no adjustments and the government comes back with exactly the same deal it could run into a problem. There’s a general principle that MPs shouldn’t be asked to consider the same question twice in a single session.

However, it’s been argued that this rule would not apply if the will of Parliament had changed. And, in any case, the Speaker could choose to allow a second debate to proceed.

2. Parliament takes control

Another crucial amendment, tabled by Labour MP Yvette Cooper, seeks to wrest control of parliamentary time from the government. If passed it would enable a major change.

Flowchart explaining how Yvette Cooper's amendment would affect proceedings
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Under normal parliamentary procedure the government generally controls the business of the House of Commons – ie what MPs get to debate. That makes it hard for the opposition or backbench MPs to set the agenda.

The Cooper plan would suspend this rule on 5 February so that MPs could debate a new bill.

If that bill became law it would mean that the prime minister would be obliged to seek an extension of Article 50 if no Brexit deal had been approved by 26 February.

3. No deal

It’s perfectly possible that none of the MPs’ amendments will pass. And even if they do, it’s not certain that their backers will get what they want.

If nothing else subsequently happens, the default position would be a no-deal Brexit.

The law is already in place which means the UK would leave the EU on 29 March 2019.

And, in any case, EU rules mean the UK would leave then.

The government would probably want to pass some legislation to prepare for no deal but that’s not strictly essential.

So MPs might try to stop a no-deal Brexit, but they would need to do something else to prevent it from happening as a matter of course.

4. Major renegotiation

The government could propose to negotiate a new Brexit deal.

This would not be a question of carrying out minor tweaks and having a second vote.

Flowchart explaining how a renegotiation might happen
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Instead, there could be a complete renegotiation that would take some time and might well require an extension of Article 50 to delay Brexit.

This would require two key steps. First, the UK would have to make a request to the EU for an extension. This could be granted but only if all EU countries agree at a vote of the EU Council.

Second, the government would have to table a statutory instrument to change the definition of “exit day” in the EU Withdrawal Act. MPs would get a chance to vote on this change.

If the EU refused to re-enter negotiations, the government would have to plump for one of the other options instead.

5. Another referendum

The government could instead choose to have another referendum.

As with a renegotiation or early election, this might well require an extension to Article 50. It’s already too late to hold a referendum before 29 March.

And it can’t just happen automatically. The rules for referendums are set out in a law called the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000.

There would have to be a new piece of legislation to make a referendum happen and to determine the rules, such as who would be allowed to vote.

It couldn’t be rushed through, because there has to be time for the Electoral Commission to consider and advise on the referendum question.

Flowchart explaining how there could be a referendum
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The question is then defined in the legislation.

Once the legislation has been passed, the referendum couldn’t happen immediately either. There would have to be a statutory “referendum period” before the vote takes place.

Experts at University College London’s Constitution Unit suggest that the minimum time for all of the required steps above is about 22 weeks.

Even if that could be shortened a little, it would still take us well beyond the end of March.

6. Call a general election

Theresa May could decide the best way out of the deadlock would be to hold an early general election – in order to get a political mandate for her deal.

Flowchart explaining how government could call an election
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She doesn’t have the power just to call an election. But, as in 2017, she could ask MPs to vote for an early election under the terms of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act.

Two-thirds of all MPs would need to support the move. The earliest date for the election would be 25 working days later but it could be after that – the prime minister would choose the precise date.

As with the “renegotiate” plan, this course of action could also involve a request to the EU to extend Article 50.

7. Another no-confidence vote

Labour could table another motion of no confidence in the government at any time.

Flowchart explaining process of vote of no confidence
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Under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act 2011, UK general elections are only supposed to happen every five years. The next one is due in 2022.

But a vote of no confidence lets MPs vote on whether they want the government to continue. The motion must be worded: “That this House has no confidence in Her Majesty’s Government.”

If a majority of MPs vote for the motion then it starts a 14-day countdown.

If during that time the current government or any other alternative government cannot win a new vote of confidence, then an early general election would be called.

That election cannot happen for at least 25 working days.

Other possibilities

The European Court of Justice has ruled that it would be legal for the UK to unilaterally revoke Article 50 to cancel Brexit (without the need for agreement from the other 27 EU countries).

With the government still committed to Brexit, it’s very likely that a major event such as a further referendum or change of government would have to happen before such a move.

After Theresa May survived a challenge to her leadership, the Conservative Party’s rules mean she won’t face another for 12 months.

But she could always decide to resign anyway, if she can’t get her deal through and she’s not prepared to change course.

That would trigger a Conservative leadership campaign which would result in the appointment of a new prime minister.

She might also come under pressure to resign if MPs pass a “censure motion” – that would be a bit like a no-confidence vote but without the same automatic consequences. Again this could lead to a change in prime minister or even a change in government.

Whoever ended up in charge would still face the same basic range of Brexit options though.

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