Welcome to another Brexit blog
Good afternoon and welcome to our live coverage as MPs once again seize control of the House of Commons for a series of indicative votes (ie they are not binding government) to try to test support for alternatives to the prime minister’s Brexit deal and try to unblock the parliamentary deadlock.
Timetable in the House of Commons
On Monday's the Commons does not sit until 2:30pm, so the session is about to start. Today's order of business means that for the first hour or so MPs will be grilling the Home Secretary Sajid Javid and his ministers. After that from about 3:30pm MPs will first debate how the process around today's indicative votes are going to work, which could take us to as late as 6pm. After that the Speaker will announced which Brexit options he has selected for MPs to debate, which has to be finished by 8pm. The votes, via ballot paper, will then be counted with results expected about 10pm.
MPs are due to vote on a range of Brexit options in an attempt to find consensus on an alternative to Theresa May’s deal ahead of Britain’s scheduled exit from the EU on April 12.
A first round of voting last Wednesday proved inconclusive. Two options — membership of a customs union with the bloc and a second referendum — won significant support, but many MPs abstained or voted tactically.
To win a majority, a proposal needs up to 317 votes. But perhaps the key benchmark is 286 — the number of votes that Mrs May’s withdrawal agreement received when it was defeated in the House of Commons on Friday.
The FT's Henry Mance has summarised what he sees as the main contenders today, bearing in mind the Speaker, John Bercow, has the final say on which ones are selected.
You can read his explainer here.
Alternatively, we will detail the options over the course of the next few minutes on the blog.
Customs union (motion C)
The main backer is Ken Clarke, a Tory grandee who is the longest serving MP in the House of Commons.
Last Wednesday in the first round of indicative votes 265 MPs backed the option, with 271 against with 102 abstentions.
The former Conservative chancellor of the exchequer is leading a call for a new customs union with the EU, which would severely limit the UK’s ability to do independent trade deals but would reduce friction at the border with the EU for components and manufactured goods.
This crosses one of Theresa May’s Brexit red lines, and could split the Conservative party. It won support from 34 Europhile Tories last time and would have won a plurality of votes had it been backed by the Liberal Democrats, the Scottish National party or the Independent Group, a new faction made up of defectors from the Labour and Conservative parties.
But in itself this motion would not deliver a Brexit solution. It simply says that any Brexit deal should include a customs union “at a minimum”.
Common Market 2.0 (motion D)
First round: 189 in favour, 283 against, 166 abstentions
This option proposed by pro-EU Tory MP Nick Boles and would provide for the softest of Brexits — keeping the UK within the EU’s single market and maintaining a customs union with the bloc. Previously labelled “Norway-plus”, it has been championed by a group of Conservative and Labour backbenchers. Other MPs have been put off because single market membership requires keeping to EU rules and continuing the free movement of EU nationals. Immigration was a big theme of the 2016 Brexit referendum.
The option received the fourth-most votes in the first round. It could now do better since the Scottish National party, which abstained in the first round, says it will support the plan this time round in its effort to “rule out the worst forms of Brexit”.
The question is whether other groups that previously abstained will also come around, in particular, Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist party.
The DUP opposes Mrs May’s deal because of the withdrawal agreement’s “backstop” provision, which is intended to prevent a hard border in the island of Ireland but which the party says will create barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
The Common Market 2.0 proposal could in effect make the backstop irrelevant by keeping the whole of the UK within the single market — so removing the need for any special measures to avoid a hard Irish border.
Second referendum (motion E)
First round: 268 in favour, 295 against, 75 abstentions
Proposed my Labour MP Peter Kyle, this would prevent any withdrawal agreement from being ratified without a public vote. Supporters say it is compatible with almost any form of Brexit deal, including Mrs May’s own.
In the first round, the plan won the most votes of any proposal, although it lost by a wider margin than Mr Clarke's customs union motion. All the opposition parties whipped in favour of it — but 27 Labour MPs rebelled to vote against the proposal, and 18 abstained. Meanwhile, only 8 Conservatives went the other way, supporting another public vote.
Revocation (motion G)
First round: 184 in favour, 293 against, 161 abstentions
This motion, proposed by Joanna Cherry, a Scottish National Party MP, has been rewritten since Wednesday to win over the support of Labour MPs. It previously called for MPs to have a vote on abandoning Brexit if the UK ended up just one day from a no-deal exit.
Now it says that, two days before a no-deal Brexit, the UK should immediately seek an extension to Article 50, the formal exit process. If that is not possible, MPs should then vote on whether to leave without a deal or to revoke Article 50.
If parliament does vote to revoke, the motion calls for an inquiry to be set up into what kind of future relationship with the EU could both be acceptable to the bloc and supported by a majority in the UK. That could potentially lead to a fresh referendum.
The UK is legally entitled to revoke Article 50 unilaterally, according to the terms of a European Court of Justice ruling in December. But many MPs continue to balk at anything that looks like parliament defying the result of the 2016 referendum. Only 10 Tories voted for this motion on Wednesday, and 132 Labour MPs either voted against or abstained.
Four other motions
The remaining motions include one calling for a no-deal Brexit on April 12 and another calling for the UK to stay in the single market, but not the customs union. John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, will select which motions will be voted on at the start of the debate, scheduled for 6pm at the latest.
How MPs have voted to date
The Institute for Government has come up with this rather nice chart showing how MPs' votes have shifted over the succession of 'meaningful votes' so far - it clearly shows the attrition of opposition on the government benches, as more Tory MPs shifted to back the prime minister.
The IfG has also done this vote, showing how last week's series of indicative votes went:
Parliament is now in session
The Commons is now sitting with MPs questioning Home Office ministers for the past 20 minutes or so and is expected to continue for about another 35 minutes.
The difficulty of Brexit
Here's a poll carried out by YouGov on Friday, the day that the UK was originally supposed to leave the EU. It asks respondents whether it has been more difficult than they expected - more than half of those who replied said it was more difficult than they thought.
How important is Brexit?
Pollster Ipsos Mori carries out a longrunning monthly polling series on the issues which the public rates as most important. Here's the proportion of people who say that the EU is one of the most important issues to them, over time. As you can see, it didn't really have much traction until the referendum was called in early 2016.
But there is a clear class division within that figure - here's how the most recent poll result breaks down, by social class:
You can read more about that here.
New grouping of moderate Tories to back customs union?
The FT's Whitehall correspondent Sebastian Payne has obtained a document that is being circulated by a newly-formed One Nation grouping of moderate Conservative MPs. There are about 40 of them according to the Guardian and are seeking to stop the party from moving further to the right.
The document about a permanent customs union is circulating on One Nation's WhatsApp group. The two page summary provides arguments about the pros and cons of remaining in a custom union with the EU. Seb believes it is preparing the way for the group to back Ken Clarke's customs union option.
Key commentary on Brexit
Here is a selection of our most columnists' most recent thinking on Brexit. Wolfgang Münchau argues that there are clear strategic arguments to be made for the EU refusing to allow the UK a further extension to the timetable.
Meanwhile David Allen Green says that Brexit is a test of the British constitution - as parliament prepares for the second set of indicative votes, questions not only of parliamentary procedure but of fundamental constitutional principle too are hard to avoid.
According to Robert Shrimsley, the prime minister faces a clear choice: to split her party or to go for an election and risk letting the electorate do so. Any path she takes is likely to trigger mass cabinet resignations, he says.
Some ERGers to turn back on May again
The FT's Sebastian Payne has been told by sources in the Eurosceptic hardline European Research Group that some of their members who backed May's deal on Friday (after voting against it on the previous two occasions) are doing a u-turn and will resort to voting down May’s deal if it comes back to the House. Seb says to watch the moment in the Commons sometime after 3:30pm when ERGer Richard Drax will announce he's doing a u-turn on his u-turn.
Juncker: patience running out
Speaking earlier, Jean-Claude Juncker, European Commission president, said that patience was running out with the UK ahead of a new Brexit “cliff-edge” on April 12; EU leaders will hold a special summit on April 10 to discuss the crisis.
“A sphinx is an open book compared with the British parliament . . . . and we must get this sphinx to talk,” Mr Juncker said at an event in Saarland, in Germany. “We’ve had enough of this long silence.”
The commission president complained that concerning Brexit, “no one knows which way it’s going”. He added that while the EU knows what the British parliament doesn’t want, “we still don’t really know what it wants”.
Labour to back Common Market 2.0 option
Labour is to support the Common Market 2.0 option for Brexit in Monday’s indicative votes in the House of Commons, as well as other options which the party backed last week, PA reports.
A Labour spokesman said: “In line with our policy, we’re supporting motions to keep options on the table to prevent a damaging Tory deal or no deal, build consensus across the House to break the deadlock and deliver an outcome that can work for the whole country.”
This option is the one proposed by pro-EU Tory MP Nick Boles and would provide for the softest of Brexits — keeping the UK within the EU’s single market and maintaining a customs union with the bloc. The Scottish National party, which abstained on this option in the first round, has also said it would support this option.
Boles welcomed Labour's support in a Tweet, writing:
Very good to see Labour giving it’s official support for Common Market 2.0. It comes closer to Labour’s stated policy than any other Brexit compromise and now has a real chance of winnning the majority that has eluded the PM.
With the likelihood of a general election creeping upwards day by day, attention is turning to the general public's voting intentions. Here is a chart from the FT, showing that - on a rolling 10-day average - the Tories and Labour are neck and neck, but support for both of the main parties has dived in recent weeks. It's all to play for.
MPs debating how to proceed with indicative votes
The Commons has now switched to debating how the process around today's indicative votes is going to work. Andrea Leadsom, the leader of the House again explains that the government will oppose the motion that allows MPs to take control of the House. She explains that the "government has concerns about the precedent this sets."
Leadsom suggest May's deal is the only solution
The leader of the House said that as MPs failed to find no solution last Wednesday, the only legitimate option was the back Theresa May's deal. She says any other Brexit option would have to be "deliverable" and deliver the results of the 2016 referendum. She also reminds the House that any further extension to Brexit beyond April 12 would mean the UK would have to hold European elections, which she says after nearly three years since the referendum would be "unacceptable to the people of the United Kingdom."
The smaller parties
A look at polling data on other political parties shows that the pro-EU Liberal Democrats are struggling to make headway, while the anti-EU UK Independence Party - which took quite a hit after the 2017 election - is clawing its way back up the polls again.
Eagle: we must innovate with constitutional procedure
Labour MP Angela Eagle has just been speaking, criticising the Leader of the Commons Andrea Leadsom and saying that the government does not appear to want to hear MPs' opinions about the way forward. It is necessary to innovate in constitutional terms in order to find a way out of the current impasse, Ms Eagle says, and the procedure which Oliver Letwin has developed is helping them to edge towards an outcome which will have majority backing.
Sterling climbed on Monday as MPs prepared to hold a second round of votes to test support for alternatives to Theresa May’s Brexit deal, reports FastFT's Philip Georgiadis.
The currency was trading 0.6 per cent higher at $1.3113 ahead of the vote later, which will give the House of Commons the chance to endorse a softer Brexit strategy than Mrs May’s position. It rose 0.7 per cent on the common currency to €1.1691.
Sterling briefly fell below $1.30 last week after MPs rejected the withdrawal agreement with the EU for a third time, but has since recovered slightly as the prime minister has come under pressure to soften her Brexit red lines.
The currency, which has become a barometer for investors’ Brexit expectations, has traded in a tight range over the past month as indecision has reined in Westminster.
Debate about the debate
MPs have not yet moved onto the substantive debate, as they are still discussing the process itself. The Speaker is getting a bit frustrated with this, saying that many of the points being made could have been made in the debate itself. Some of the discussion is about how many more days of Parliamentary business could be handed over to the Letwin Process.
Confidence in the prime minister
A number of MPs from the European Research Group - hardline Conservative eurosceptics - have now said that they do not have confidence in the prime minister any more. Mrs May won a Conservative Party confidence vote in December, and party rules do not allow another vote to be held for some months yet. However that is not to stop the House of Commons holding a vote of confidence in her government, something that Labour is contemplating doing. Mrs May (seen below leaving Downing Street earlier) won a no-confidence vote in her government in January by 325 votes to 306.
Further to our post a bit earlier, here's the sterling chart for today against the US dollar
May to meet with Tory MPs: Reuters
British Prime Minister Theresa May will meet members of her Conservative Party later on Monday, her spokesman told reporters.
The spokesman also restated May's opposition to retaining membership of the European Union's single market, saying that ending free movement was an important fact behind the 2016 public vote to leave the bloc.
Five hour cabinet planned for Tuesday
Downing Street has confirmed that tomorrow's Brexit cabinet meeting will last five hours, writes the FT's George Parker.
"It's going to be a very big moment," says one aide to the prime minister.
The meeting will break down into two halves. The first half will be a political cabinet, lasting from 9am-12am. There will then be a short break, followed by a two hour formal cabinet meeting from 1pm-3pm.
The political element of the cabinet will be the most interesting: where ministers thrash out issues likely to impact the Conservative Party including - one would expect - the possibility of a general election as a route out of the impasse.
But, George says, how does the government respond if the House of Commons forms a majority around a soft Brexit policy tonight?
Rees-Mogg: no confidence in the government
Jacob Rees-Mogg, leader of the hardline Eurosceptic European Research Group, says he agrees with other ERG members, as well as Labour's Chris Bryant, that the fact that MPs are having to seize control of the House reflects the fact that it no longer has faith in the government. Mr Bryant suggested earlier that any previous government that had lost a key vote on multiple occasions as this one has should have resigned by now.
He goes on to complain that the actual time allowed to debate the options (between 6:15pm to 8pm, he estimates) is insufficient.
Debate continues about the debate
We are still on the business motion and have not yet progressed to the main debate. A series of Brexit supporting MPs have made interventions and speeches, and time is ticking on. Several have complained about the short amount of time available today for the main debate - less than three hours, says Greg Hands, a Conservative MP who calls it "extremely unsatisfactory".
Speaker calls vote on motion for MPs to seize control
After all the complaints of there not being enough time to debate the various Brexit alternatives, John Bercow, the speaker, has just called on MPs to vote, somewhat earlier than many of the ERG critics had indicated in their protests about parliament not having enough time to actually debate the Brexit options.
Last vote on seizing control of the House
Just a reminder that last Wednesday, the first time that MPs took control of the Commons' agenda the motion passed by 331 votes to 287.
MPs vote to take control of the House
MPs have voted to proceed with their second day of indicative voting. The result was:
The 4 Brexit options
The speaker John Bercow has selected the following amendments for voting today:
C) Customs Union – Ken Clarke is leading a call for a new customs union with the EU
D) Common Market 2.0 – Nick Boles’s motion provides for the softest of Brexits — keeping the UK within the EU’s single market and maintaining a customs union with the bloc.
E) Second referendum - Proposed by Labour MP Peter Kyle, this would prevent any withdrawal agreement from being ratified without a public vote.
G) Revocation – Joanna Cherry SNP - has been rewritten since Wednesday to win over the support of Labour MPs. It previously called for MPs to have a vote on abandoning Brexit if the UK ended up just one day from a no-deal exit.
Inviting the House to vote again?
Conservative MP Greg Hands asks the Speaker to explain why he has called an amendment which has already been voted on - Ken Clarke's customs union vote. He says it is not consistent with previous Parliamentary procedure in which Mr Bercow refused to allow the prime minister to table her withdrawal agreement again after it had been defeated twice. Mr Bercow says he is trying to deal with with the circumstances he is confronted.
John Baron asks the Speaker to reconsider on motions A and B. Motion A is new, he says, and a similar idea has previously achieved a majority. He also suggests motion B is the legal default position and it is incumbent on the House to consider that.
Mr Bercow says he is not obliged to provide an answer on those points because the House has long asserted the right of the Chair to make these judgements and accepted the Chair would not necessarily make explanations. But in this case, he says, in relation to the first point he has to make a judgement about what is reasonable in terms of going forward. We are acting in a negotiation with the EU and the point in motion A has been aired previously. It has become clear that reexamination is not offered by the EU. So in terms of trying to broker progress now I did not think it would be the most sensible motion to choose, he says.
In relation to the no-deal motion, Mr Bercow says that he is going to repeat Mr Baron's own point - it is precisely because leaving with no deal is the default position that having it on the order paper is a statement of fact and does not require debate. Secondly, it was rejected by a significant majority in a previous vote. It wouldn't pass. I see my duty as being to try and advance matters, he says. People want MPs to make some progress and that is why I have made the disinterested judgement I have made to try and serve the House.
Our Whitehall correspondent Sebastian Payne says that, as Labour supports three of the four motions the Speaker has chosen, the only motion which is highly unlikely to pass is the revocation of Brexit; "all the others have a chance of finding a majority", he writes. The Cabinet will abstain, while other Tory MPs are free to vote as they wish. MPs will vote til 8pm at the latest, and we expect the results around 10pm.
Points of order
A series of Brexit-supporting MPs are now making points of order. They are unhappy that the Speaker has not called any of the harder Brexit options. The Speaker is rebutting them fairly robustly, saying that these options have previously been defeated. He repeats his point that this is part of a process for which the House voted, and what he is doing is in keeping with that process.
The way MPs voted last Wednesday
A quick reminder how MPs voted in the first round last Wednesday on the 4 Brexit motions they will debate again today. As we have mentioned earlier, Motion G has been rewritten.
Customs union (motion C): 265 votes in favour, 271 against, 102 abstentions
Common Market 2.0 (motion D): 189 in favour, 283 against, 166 abstentions
Second referendum (motion E): 268 in favour, 295 against, 75 abstentions
Revocation (motion G): 184 in favour, 293 against, 161 abstentions
The debate begins
Ken Clarke, the Tory grandee, gets the debate underway and refuses the first attempt at an intervention because of what he called the "fillibustering" in the debate over the vote to seize control of the House earlier.
He says he hopes MPs will be able to achieve a plurality of votes for at least "a couple of motions". Clarke, the former chancellor, is the main backer of the Customs Union option.
Motion C deals with Labour's objections
Motion C is dealing with the non-binding political declaration about the future of the relationship between the UK and EU, Ken Clarke explains. He says it deals with Labour's objection that otherwise they would be voting for a "blind Brexit". As it stands, once the Withdrawal Agreement is approved, Labour argues negotiations about a future trade deal would be shaped entirely by cabinet because the political declaration is not specific enough.
Mine is the fallback position, says Clarke
After the Joanna Cherry of the Scottish National party says her party cannot support his motion because it does not include access to the single market and therefore allow freedom of movement, Ken Clarke explains that his motion is the "fallback position". He says he would prefer to stay in the EU but he doesn't believe the more ambitious Common Market 2.0 option proposed by his fellow Tory Nick Boles will get enough support. He says he will vote for Boles' motion as well as his own.
Independent Group MPs rule out Common Market option
The Independent Group - with its 11 MPs - will not be backing the so-called Common Market 2.0 option in the vote this evening, says the FT's Henry Mance. The group, including former Tory and Labour MPs, wants to stop Brexit via a second referendum, and so will not support any variations of a withdrawal deal.
"When they append a [second referendum] to them with Remain option, then sure [we will support them]," said one TIG MP.
The problems facing UK in trade negotiations
Explaining why he thinks a customs union is crucial, Ken Clarke points to the trouble the UK will face negotiating its own trade deals.
He says: "I have probably had more experience of trade negotiations than any other members of this House," explaining that he has been involved with the US, China as well as being involved in EU trade negotiations.
"Opening up the Chinese market is a very slow business, I could have told President Trump," he jokes.
He explains the EU talks he was involved in with the US over the so-called TTIP trade deal was opposed by the Obama administration because it argued it would not get anything called a free trade deal past Congress. "It is quite a protectionist country, certainly Congress is," he says. He said the EU wanted services and public procurement.
He explains Trump's desire to do a trade deal with the UK is driven by "the large trade surplus we have with America and that is what he [Trump] has in mind."
He warns that Trump has an "obsession" with food and agricultural products, which he says will lead to the high food quality and animal welfare in place in the UK - due to the UK's heavy lobbying in Brussels - reduced to the much lower standards in the US. "The agricultural lobby in Congress is extremely powerful and they wouldn't take the slightest notice on British interests in these matters."
As he wraps up, he says now is the time for people to get behind this [motion] and Common Market 2.0, vote for revocation too, he adds, as he reminds MPs there is no one in this House that supports the "European project" more than he does.
Motion E - second referendum
The main proposer Labour MP Peter Kyle is now on his feet to promote his argument for his option that would prevent any withdrawal agreement from being ratified without a public vote.
Motion offers a "definite end" to the impasse
Peter Kyle argues a second vote on the proposed deal would give everyone a "definite end to the Brexit impasse". He is interrupted by Tory Brexiter Nigel Evans who argues his idea "would have some merit" if both main parties hadn't stood on a manifesto to deliver Brexit. Kyle replies that the Labour manifesto was published two and a half weeks after he agreed to stand as a candidate and that May's deal was published two years after the general election.
"My motion breaks the deadlock in Parliament", he adds, he says it would explicitly prevent Parliament from backing any Brexit deal until the public had voted.
Naked protests in parliament
There are a dozen half-naked protestors in the House of Commons public gallery, who appear to be making a point about climate change.
The protestors - pressed against the glass in the gallery - have slogans such as Climate Justice Act Now written on their bodies. Police are now dragging them off, reports the FT's Henry Mance and Laura Hughes.
However, some protestors seem to have glued their hands to the glass screen, Henry says.
One MP, James Heappey, has posted a picture of the protestors:
Motion D - Common Market 2.0
Nick Boles is now on his feet to introduce his motion that would provide the softest of Brexits — keeping the UK within the EU’s single market and maintaining a customs union with the bloc.
Boles: better half a loaf than none at all
Nick Boles is discussing his motion. His proposal offers something to the 48% who voted Remain, he says. While free movement would apply in normal times, we would secure a new legal right in exceptional circumstances to put an emergency brake on immigration, he says. It is a significant measure of control that we do not already have.
His proposal would keep all parts of the UK in a customs arrangement with the EU, avoiding the Irish backstop, Mr Boles says. If a referendum happens, its result would be unpredictable - surely his option would be better.
In response to a question from Lib Dem Tim Farron about whether he will support a second referendum, Mr Boles says that if MPs back his motion tonight, it would need to then be enacted in legislation and MPs would have the opportunity then to amend the legislation to require a confirmatory referendum. That isn't a message that will go down well with Brexiters.
Mr Boles wraps up by making a bid for compromise - "It is better to get half a loaf than nothing at all", he tells MPs.
Cherry: highly unlikely MPs will find no-deal alternative
Joanna Cherry of the SNP is now setting out her motion, to revoke Article 50. She says that MPs must not let no-deal happen simply because they have failed to find an alternative. We are highly unlikely to find a deal the House can get behind before 12 April so we need some kind of backstop to protect us from no-deal, she says. 400 MPs voted against no-deal last week, she says - we know there is a majority against no-deal.
Ms Cherry says that her motion would mandate the government to negotiate an extension of the deal and if the EU did not agree with an extension, the government would be mandated to revoke Article 50 before the UK exits the EU on the night of 12 April. She understands why some MPs felt they could not support revoke previously, she says - it is easy for me to cross this bridge, coming from a strongly remain constituency, but it is harder for MPs with different mandates. For some people to support this motion, the door cannot be closed to Brexit, she says, so that's why we have crafted the motion in this way.
Cherry: the last chance to reject no-deal
This is not a motion about the ultimate outcome, but a motion about process and protecting our constituents from the economic damage of no-deal, Ms Cherry says.
This is a chance for Labour to make good on its 2017 manifesto promises, she says, which said that the party would reject no-deal as a viable option. This is the last chance to do that, she says. This decision of such importance for the UK ought to be one for the representatives of the people in Parliament and not for a minority government. This is about taking back control and making sure we have an insurance policy against the danger that this irresponsible government could crash us into no-deal, she concludes.
Grieve: public debate has become distanced from the facts
Dominic Grieve, the former attorney general, is speaking about all four motions. He has backed motions E and G. The idea that we can legitimately take the people of this country out of the EU without consulting them on whether the deal we are offering them is one they want seems to me to be a very poor thing to do indeed, he says. The prospect for Leave now looks very little like what was being advocated during the referendum campaign. We have to do everything we can to stop no-deal, the evidence is overwhelming that would be catastrophic.
Speaking about the no-confidence vote in his constituency on Friday night, he says that some people shouted "liar" at him, and the debate has become removed from the facts.
Both of the options he is backing offer a better destination for this country than what the prime minister has negotiated, he says.
The Leave campaign promised people the benefits of membership and all the benefits on offer outside of membership, Mr Grieve says. He is anxious about the risks of concluding a political declaration and moving to a very limited timeframe to resolve the issues to the satisfaction of the public. That is why there is a need to link the preferred option and consulting the public.
The House has to be very careful about simply jumping on something we can agree with without thinking through the consequences of the process and making sure that satisfies the electorate, he says.
Second referendum could be used to get May's deal through
Tory MP Hugh Merriman who has backed Theresa May's deal three times argues that his colleagues vote for a second referendum as it can be used to get Theresa May's deal approved. He says he "wants certainty and a general election will not deliver certainty."
He adds that with "great reluctance I would support a confirmatory vote."
PA: government makes provision for EU elections
The Press Association reports that government officials have been given approval to begin to prepare for the European elections in May. David Lidington, de facto deputy prime minister, said that returning officers would be reimbursed for "reasonable" expenses incurred in preparing for the elections, PA reports.
The UK will have to take part in the elections to the European Parliament if it asks for a further delay beyond 12 April, the European Commission has insisted.
In a letter to the Electoral Commission, Mr Lidington said that "it remains the intention for the UK to leave the EU with a deal and not take part in the European parliamentary elections in May" but he added "I am able to confirm that Cabinet Office will reimburse reasonable spending by returning officers on contingency preparations for European parliamentary elections". MPs' rejection of Theresa May's withdrawal deal on Friday meant that "the opportunity to guarantee that the UK would not participate in EP elections has been removed", Mr Lidington wrote.
The government will lay a statutory instrument "in due course" to make legal provision for the election spending, he said in his letter.
Business is suffering
Tory MP Dame Caroline Spelman, one of the promoters of the motion that allowed MPs to seize control of parliament, points out that a hard Brexit would be too damaging for business. She says it also can't cope with the short delays to Brexit that the country is currently facing and declares her support for both the Customs Union option and the Common Market 2.0 motion (she is a backer of both).
"The car factories in our constituencies are shut down this month in anticipation of Brexit," she says, adding that car makers can't just keep re-opening and closing and asking staff to take their annual leave.
Barclay rebuffs tonight's motions
The front benches are now making speeches. Stephen Barclay, the Brexit secretary, says that part of the criticism the prime minister has received from both sides has been that it doesn't meet their demands and so she is bedevilled by a pincer movement from both sides.
Anna Soubry, the former Tory MP who defected to become independent, interrupts to say that the prime minister has not sought to compromise with those MPs like her who are available to compromise.
Mr Barclay says that Ms Soubry's passionate remarks show the lack of compromise that has been available on both sides.
Ed Vaizey, a Tory MP, asks about a letter which is reported to have been sent to Brexit supporting MPs by Downing Street, and what did it contain. Mr Barclay says he hasn't signed any such letter.
Mr Barclay says the motions before the House tonight include signatures from MPs who stood on a manifesto which is contrary to tonight's motions. He then runs through each of the four motions, rebuffing each of them and saying that the House has already voted on some of them and this evening is rehashing matters that have already been considered. We need to give businesses certainty, he says.
Not all MPs have voted to date along the lines that their constituency's vote in the 2016 referendum would suggest. 59 MPs from Remain-supporting areas have backed the idea of the UK signing up for a Common market according to Martin Stabe from our interactive desk - they are:
Liz Saville Roberts
Meanwhile 49 MPs from Leave-supporting areas have backed the move to revoke Article 50, Martin found. They are:
The Independent Group:
Susan Elan Jones
Labour whipping on 3 of the 4 motions
Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, says he recognises that Parliament is trying to complete a process at some speed that the prime minister should have carried out two year ago.
He calls on Labour back benchers to "enter the spirit of the exercise" and that means "supporting options other than their own preferred option in order to break the deadlock."
He explains the Labour position is to whip support for three motions:
Motion C - Customs union
Motion D - Common Market 2.0
Motion E - second referendum
The one that Labour will not support is the revocation motion, promoted by the Scottish National party, although he accepts it is a position that the House will have to confront at some point. It prompts an angry response from the SNP's Joanna Cherry, who is the promoter of that motion.
Starmer replies that he does not reject the motion in "principle".
Polling on the options
Our head of interactive Martin Stabe has been having a look at some polling by Delta on what the public thinks about the various motions MPs have tabled. It shows that a customs union has the highest net support among those polled:
But the options are very polarised - those with the highest support, such as revoke, are also most strongly opposed.
Wilson: no backing for any of the motions
The DUP's Sammy Wilson says that a crucial question all tonight's motions must address is whether they deliver what people voted for. The customs union and common market proposals would not deal with the customs issue along the Irish border, he says. The EU has been clear that where there is uncertainty they will require the backstop is in place. The solutions before us tonight do not deal with the backstop. Some people would say there is no solution other than staying in the EU that would deal with the backstop but I do not accept that, he says -the EU has said in the case of no deal that they would not need barriers along the border.
Ken Clarke says didn't the DUP object to the backstop because it put different arrangements in place to the rest of the UK?
Mr Wilson says that his other requirements was that any arrangement should also deliver what people voted for. Staying in a customs union or single market would not deliver on what people have voted for.
A second referendum is not the choice that the vast majority of people who voted to leave the EU would want, he says. People voted to leave. The idea that we are somehow giving people a choice would not be acceptable.
And as far as the revoke amendment goes, the people backing that have made it clear they wish to stay in the EU so we would not vote for that either. So tonight we will not be supporting any of these arrangements, Mr Wilson concludes.
Powell: hold your noses
It is easy to take targeted objection to little bits of any of the motions on offer, says Labour MP Lucy Powell, but we need to hold our noses and vote to break the deadlock before we crash out of the EU with no deal next week.
Tory MP Anne Main says she does not wish to vote for any of the motions tonight but she is being asked to choose one. She chose the PM's deal and she was criticised for that but it did not pass. She has criticisms of all the options this evening. A second referendum would be a completely different referendum this time around but she is opposed to it. It is undemocratic to argue the process should be re-run.
Speaker calls on MPs to vote
The Speaker of the House John Bercow has ended the debate and is now reminding MPs how to vote in this unusual paper ballot - MPs usually walk through the division lobbies to indicate if they support or reject a motion. This time they are using paper ballots, with MPs whose surnames begin with a letter from the first half of the alphabet handing their form in at one of the division lobbies, and the other half of MPs handing their votes in at the other. The votes will then be counted manually, which is why it will take significantly longer than usual for us to get the result.
The Labour whips office has Tweeted a couple of pics of the voting form for tonight.
The sitting in the Commons has been suspended for half an hour to allow MPs to their votes. According to the House of Commons Twitter feed, the result is not expected until 10:30pm.
May's stark choices
With MPs still voting followed by a lengthy wait for the results (now looking like 10:30pm) we would point readers in the direction of the analysis by George Parker, the FT's political editor, explaining what will be behind the marathon five-hour Cabinet meeting that Theresa May has called on Tuesday morning.
The aim of the meeting of senior ministers, which is likely to be "brutal", is to see if the government can find a way out of the Brexit morass.
The piece argues that Theresa May "clings to the hope that it might be a case of fourth time lucky" for her own deal. But an air of pessimism hangs over Number 10 as the PM needs 30 MPs to switch sides from last Friday's third defeat.
The FT reports that May will accept a parliamentary amendment to her deal, put down by Labour backbencher Lisa Nandy, which offers MPs a bigger say in determining the second phase of Brexit: talks on a future relationship between the UK and the EU. It may bring a few more Labour MPs onboard.
Another option preferred by Europhile ministers is for May to embrace a softer Brexit if that is what MPs want, which of course hangs on the vote tonight. But Eurosceptic Tories say it would shatter the Conservative party, which fought the 2017 election on a promise to leave the customs union and single market.
And even if MPs endorsed a soft Brexit option, it is hard to see how any Conservative prime minister could deliver it. If half the Tory party and senior cabinet ministers refused to back the policy, Mrs May would need Labour votes to implement it.
The other options on the table are a general election (which faces multiple problems), a no-deal Brexit (which Downing Street has accepted parliament will never allow to happen) and a second referendum, which some some Eurosceptic Conservatives might prefer on a Brexit deal rather than risk a general election
You can read the full piece here
House briefly back in session
The Speaker John Bercow called the Commons back to order and then promptly suspended the sitting again until just before the votes later. All very procedural.
Ken Clarke: the Tory grandee who wants a softer Brexit
In the meantime, here is some more recommended reading for you. The FT's chief political correspondent had penned a profile of Ken Clarke, one of Parliament's great characters.
He never made it to the top because of his "stubborn support for the EU — which at one point included backing UK membership of the euro."
Over more than three decades Clarke (pictured below with then Tory PM John Major) held many senior positions in government including chancellor of the exchequer and home secretary as well as the portfolios of education, health and justice. But he was repeatedly defeated in contests for the leadership: in 1997, 2001 and 2005.
You can read the full piece here.
Common market losing support
Our political correspondent Henry Mance reports:
Neither the Liberal Democrats nor the Independent Group will support Common Market 2.0, the softest Brexit option on the table tonight, which would keep the UK within the single market and in a customs union with the EU. That has annoyed some internet users, who think that anti-Brexit MPs shouldn’t rule out a compromise option. Certainly, the 22 MPs of the Lib Dems and TIG could make a difference.
For the Lib Dems and TIG, the calculation is two-fold: in principle, they don’t want any Brexit; and in practice, Common Market 2.0 is not crafted to allow time for a second referendum. Nick Boles, the leading proponent of Common Market 2.0, has tried to win support for the idea by saying the UK could still leave the EU on May 22. Mr Boles is no fan of a second referendum. He has said he will abstain on a second referendum tonight “as a gesture of goodwill”. But that is unlikely to convince anti-Brexit MPs to vote for his proposal.
MPs urge May to listen to 6 million petition signatories
In Westminster Hall, MPs have been debating three public petitions relating to Brexit, including the record-breaking one calling for Article 50 to be revoked, which has attracted 6 million signatures.
Our chief political correspondent Jim Pickard reports :
MPs have urged Theresa May to listen to the 6m people who signed the biggest petition in British history, calling on the UK prime minister to revoke the Article 50 EU exit process and stop Brexit.
In a debate in Westminster Hall, Catherine McKinnell, Labour MP for Newcastle-upon-Tyne North, called Brexit an “all-consuming exercise in futility”, arguing that most of the public “want this national nightmare to be finally over”.
Chuka Umunna, a member of the pro-EU Independent Group of MPs who have defected from the Labour and Conservative parties added that, “whether people voted Leave or Remain there is no majority for the mess that has unfolded”.
But Eurosceptic Conservatives questioned their opponent’s commitment to democracy, with Andrea Jenkyns, MP for Morley and Outwood, accusing pro-EU politicians of trying to block Brexit altogether and “overturn the  referendum result”.
Fox: why I don't back a customs union
Arch-Brexiter and international trade secretary Liam Fox has taken to Twitter to explain why he does not back what is seen as the most likely, if any, of the four options to win a majority.
In a series of four Tweets, he explains:
Last year, I set out my view on staying in the #CustomsUnion with the EU. It would put us in a worse position than we are in today – a complete sell-out of Britain’s national interest and a betrayal of the voters in the referendum. My view hasn’t changed.
The UK cannot have an independent trade policy if we stay in the Customs Union. In the #CustomsUnion we would have to apply European trade law without having a say in how it is made.
To join a #CustomsUnion with the EU, like Turkey has done, would leave us trapped – unable to conclude proper trade agreements with countries around the world.
Voters chose to take back control and now MPs want to give even more away. None of this makes sense. It's time to get back to a proper #Brexit.
Will any option win a majority of MPs over?
Our political correspondent Henry Mance reports:
Supporters of the indicative votes process are downplaying expectations that any option will tonight win a majority (320 votes, or 306, if you take away the cabinet who are abstaining).
The MPs can try to take control of the parliamentary agenda on Wednesday too, to reach a decision. But it would be a significant blow if no option won more than 286 votes that Mrs May's withdrawal deal won on Friday. It would allow her to say that her deal is the most popular option.
A government of national unity?
Our columnist Robert Shrimsley has considered the 1931 national government and what lessons it might have for politicians today. He writes:
The lessons of the UK’s only peacetime national government are instructive as, amid the Brexit deadlock, serious figures are countenancing the need for such an administration. John Major, a former prime minister, said it might be unavoidable, especially if a new election failed to deliver a majority government.
It is an alluring vision and, in a process governed by fantasy Brexits, it is only appropriate that politicians should start dreaming of a fantasy solution.
The details of a government of national unity are hazy, but in essence centrist MPs unite to deliver a consensus soft Brexit of the type MPs are already close to backing. Such a path would almost certainly be popular and marginalise the Brexit extremists. It might also speed the realignment of British politics. What a pity, then, that it is not going to happen.
Brexit has thrown up many seemingly impossible outcomes, but another look at the MacDonald government shows the conditions which make such an outcome highly unlikely.
DUP 'voted against tonight's motions'
Our political correspondent Laura Hughes reports that DUP officials have indicated to the FT that the party's 10 MPs have voted against all four proposals tonight. It had been thought that they were planning to abstain.
Election odds shifting
The likelihood of the next election resulting in no overall majority is rising, according to the Oddschecker function on Bloomberg:
Meanwhile the Tories' chances of winning a majority are falling, punters believe:
10 minute warning
The division bills are ringing in the House of Commons, various sources are reporting, which means the results of the votes should be announced in 10 minutes' time.
Has the UK left the EU yet?
The FT set this cheeky website up in mid-2016, just after the referendum. We expected it would have become out of date by now, but it hasn't ...
All options defeated
all four options have been voted down
Results of indicative vote
Here are the results of the indicative vote, showing the number of MPs who voted for and against each one:
Option C: New customs union with the EU – votes in favour 273, against 276
Option D: - Common Market 2.0 – votes in favour 261, against 282
Option E: Second referendum – votes in favour 280, against 292
Option G: Revocation of Article 50 – votes in favour 191, against 292
Barclay: Cabinet will now discuss the way forward
Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay says the house has once again failed to find a clear majority for any of the options. The House's decision on Friday not to endorse the prime minister's deal means the UK will leave the EU without a deal next week. The House has rejected no-deal as well. The only way forward is to find a way to leave with a deal.
If the House were to agree a deal this week it might be possible to avoid holding European parliament elections. Cabinet will meet tomorrow to discuss how to proceed.
Jeremy Corbyn says it is disappointing no option has won a victory. The PM's deal has been rejected three times. One of the votes tonight was a very narrow margin. If it's good enough for the PM to have three chances then the House should possibly have a chance to consider again the options before us today in a debate on Wednesday.
Blackford: Scotland must control its own future
SNP MP Ian Blackford is criticising the government strongly, to growing shouting and jeers which prompt an intervention by the Speaker. It is disappointing that no option has found a majority tonight but we need to work together to find an option that will work, he says. A vast majority of Scottish MPs voted to revoke Article 50, for a people's vote and the customs union, he says, but our votes are disrespected. If the people of Scotland want to secure our future as a European nation we will have to take our own action, he says.
Boles: I quit the Tory party
Nick Boles, a Tory MP who brought forward one of the options tonight, says he has given everything to try and find a way forward, but he accepts he has failed. That is chiefly because his party refuses to compromise so he can no longer sit with this party. He has "resigned from this party" and is crossing the floor to sit with the Opposition. MPs gasp as he rises to walk out of the Commons.
Dodds: the Brady amendment won a majority
Nigel Dodds of the DUP says the only option that has attracted a majority is the Brady amendment. There is still an opportunity for the prime minister to prosecute the issue of the backstop, and if it is addressed we can be in business.
Green MP Caroline Lucas and Lib Dem Vince Cable are pushing the idea of integrating two of tonight's options into one, for a new vote. But they are being heckled.
Just a reminder the Brady amendment was backed by a majority of MPs in January and would have replaced Northern Ireland ‘backstop’ mechanism of keeping Ireland without borders with "alternative arrangements". The EU 27 have rejected that any renegotiation of the backstop.
Clark: SNP should drop their bid
Ken Clark, the veteran Tory europhile, says that we cannot go on with everyone voting against every proposition. There were people who want a people's vote but wouldn't vote for my motion, he says. The SNP wanted common market 2 so wouldn't vote for my motion, he says. They all have actually nothing against my motion. If they continue to do that they will fail. If you add the people's vote to a motion like mine you lose votes all over the place, he says. You lose more than you gain. The SNP should accept they don;t have a majority for the people's vote and vote for something else as a fall back position.
I sometimes think this particular parliament is not particularly political and it is confounding the general public, he says.
Changes since last week
The Independent's chief political commentator John Rentoul has crunched the numbers and says the changes since last week's votes are:
Customs union: ayes +8, noes +5
Common market 2.0: ayes +72, noes -1
Second referendum: ayes +12, noes -14
Customs Union option narrowly defeated
The customs union option, proposed by Ken Clarke, was defeated by just three votes
"A reckless game of chicken"
Business organisations have begun to react to the votes. Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said:
“Parliamentarians are playing a reckless game of chicken which will end in disaster unless enough MPs can be persuaded to back a clear outcome which avoids a chaotic no deal Brexit.
“Unless the majority of MPs rally behind a plan of action that avoids no deal, it will be ordinary families who suffer higher prices and less choice on the shelves.”
Boles: Tories "incapable of compromise"
Nick Boles has Tweeted to set out his decision, which he announced in a moment of high drama in the House of Commons just now. He will not be joining his ex-colleagues Anna Soubry, Sarah Wollaston and Heidi Allen in The Independent Group. He said:
"I am resigning the Conservative whip with immediate effect. The Conservative Party has shown itself to be incapable of compromise so I will sit as an Independent Progressive Conservative."
Francois to Hammond: "Up yours"
Tory MP and Brexiter Mark Francois has been throwing some intemperate words around on the radio, reports the Guardian's Patrick Wintour on Twitter:
"Mark Francois speaking to BBC Radio 4 accuses Philip Hammond of being behind an attempt to win support for 2nd referendum. He tells the chancellor "My fraternal message to you is 'Up Yours.' " He adds it is D - 11, the moment the UK leaves without a deal."
The coup has failed
Christopher Hope, the Daily Telegraph's chief political correspondent says on Twitter that Conservative Eurosceptics are "cock a hoop" with the continued Brexit deadlock in the Commons.
One has just whispered in my ear in the House of Commons lobby: “Tee hee hee. The coup has failed. We leave in 11 days.”
How your MP voted
The House of Commons has set up a useful tool to enable people to look up how their MP voted in each of tonight's votes. You can find it here.
A soft Brexit even harder now?
The FT's political editor George Parker thinks that tonight's events make life even harder for Theresa May. He says on Twitter:
"Even harder to see how @theresa_may gets a soft Brexit through parliament now, even if one Plan B ever squeaked a majority. With only 37 Tories backing a CU and 33 a SM, she'd be doing it almost entirely with opposition votes. Night after night, relying on Corbyn. MV4 coming soon."
Verhofstadt: No deal 'inevitable'
The FT's Brussels correspondent has the first reaction from the EU with Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament Brexit chief and a former prime minister of Belgium, taking to Twitter to suggest the UK now seems to crash out of the EU.
The House of Commons again votes against all options. A hard #Brexit becomes nearly inevitable. On Wednesday, the U.K. has a last chance to break the deadlock or face the abyss.
Capital Economics: "one hell of a pickle"
Here's the view from Capital Economics on tonight's votes:
The inability of Parliament to reach a consensus on a Brexit outcome in tonight’s second round of indicative votes leaves the economy and the financial markets in limbo and Parliament in one hell of a pickle.
Tonight’s result may also encourage the Prime Minister to try her deal for a fourth time later this week (so far it’s the most popular option as none of the others won more than the 286 the PM's deal recorded last Friday). If Parliament still can’t find a consensus and the PM’s deal fails or isn’t voted on again, then the PM may either ask the EU for a longer delay to Brexit (the EU will require the UK to provide a plan for a way forward), call a general election or leave the UK drifting towards a no deal. The latter could prompt Parliament to force a general election.
So the chances of a longer delay to Brexit (with or without an election) appear to be edging up, as are the chances of a no deal.
Lack of Tory support for customs union
This graphic from PA underlines just how little Tory support there is for the most popular option among MPs tonight - Ken Clarke's motion for a customs union:
UBS: early election may now be inevitable
And here is UBS's view of the outlook:
The Government's repeated failures to win Parliamentary approval for its Withdrawal Deal have led us to conclude that an early General Election is now more likely, unless the deal already agreed with the EU can somehow be advanced in the coming days. Currently, the only forms of Brexit that a majority in Parliament seems ready to potentially support include features the Prime Minister has repeatedly identified as uncrossable red lines (for example a Customs Union or a confirmatory referendum). If she were to accept these demands, it appears she would risk her most pro-Brexit colleagues not supporting her in a vote of confidence. If she doesn't, she faces the same threat from the majority in Parliament who have already voted to prevent no deal at any time and under any circumstances. A long extension – were one to be agreed without stringent conditions by the EU – might delay this reckoning, we think, but it doesn't change the underlying stalemate and would likely still lead to an early General Election in due course.
While an early election has been cited as a way of ending Brexit uncertainty, not only will that uncertainty persist throughout the campaign, but currently it seems the only way it might be swiftly resolved at the end of it is if a majority Tory Government that is still committed to the current deal agreed with the EU is returned. We believe any other result would either mean the current impasse effectively continues, or involve renegotiating a different deal virtually from scratch, assuming the EU would be prepared to enter such negotiations. The possibility of a Government with significantly different fiscal and taxation policies will add more uncertainty, and we view an early election as posing a clear and material downside risk to our current GDP forecasts.
Another round of indicative votes?
Anna Soubry, the former Tory MP who left to join the new Independent Group, tells the BBC she would welcome a new round of indicative votes on Wednesday. When MPs voted for the motion to hold the votes today it also included a clause allowing for parliament to take control of the Commons agenda on 3 April.
The votes visualised
The Institute for Government has published this detailed graphic showing how MPs voted in each of tonight's four votes:
How MPs voted tonight
Our interactive team has put together this guide to how all MPs voted today on the four Brexit options.
You can find it here
Sterling slides in wake of votes
Sterling has dipped after MPs failed to find a majority for any of the options on the table this evening, reports the FT's Matthew Rocco in New York.
The pound fell sharply and was trading near its lows for the day following the votes, down 0.5 per cent at $1.3031.
That's all for this evening
Thanks for joining us on yet another tumultuous night in British politics. We will keep following the story closely so for the latest updates, please visit FT.com
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