The proposal for indicative votes was spearheaded by former Conservative minister Sir Oliver Letwin as an attempt to break the Brexit impasse. On Monday night, a 29-strong rebellion by Tory MPs saw the government defeated and Sir Oliver’s proposal backed. This means on Wednesday, the votes will take precedence over Government business, which will be sidelined – an extraordinary move in the shift of control.
The purpose of these votes is to see what – if anything – commands a majority in the House of Commons.
After MPs rejected Theresa May’s Brexit deal twice, then voted against no deal, and then voted for an extension to Brexit, these votes are meant to clarify what the house would support.
However, it’s worth noting the outcome of these votes doesn’t hold any legal weight.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Tuesday the Government would listen to MPs but “can’t pre-commit to following whatever they vote for”.
How will it work?
MPs will have until the end of the day on Tuesday to table different Brexit options for the Commons to vote on in indicative votes.
These will likely include a permanent UK-EU customs union; a Norway-style relationship with the EU; a no-deal Brexit; a “confirmatory” referendum on any Brexit deal; or even the revocation of the Article 50 notification and the cancellation of the UK’s exit from the UK.
On Wednesday around 3pm, speaker John Bercow will announce which of the options he has chosen for debate and to be voted on.
These will then be debated until 7pm, at which point MPs will be given half-an-hour to vote on the various options.
They’ll each be handed a piece of paper and asked to write “aye” or “noe” next to each option.
MPs can vote for more than one option – they can support as many plans as they want, even if they’d technically cancel one another out.
This creates tactical questions for MPs. Should they back their second favourite plan, or just stick with their preferred proposal?
One MP said: “I’ll either vote for a lot of them, or abstain on a lot of them.”
Once the voting is done, officials will then count the votes, expected to take an hour, and so the results will then be announced sometime after 8.30pm.
The Speaker will read out the tally of votes for each Brexit option.