Non-Meaningful: UK's Surprisingly Close Vote to Reject No-Deal Brexit


I expected a vote to prohibit a no-deal Brexit would win by a landslide. It didn't, and no-deal is still the default.

The BBC reports MPs Vote to Reject No-Deal Brexit.

MPs have voted by 312 to 308 to reject leaving the EU without a withdrawal agreement. It is not a legally-binding decision - and it does not rule out the UK leaving the EU. But it means MPs could now get a vote on delaying Brexit. That vote would take place on Thursday, and if it is passed - and the EU agrees to it - the UK will not leave the EU as planned on 29 March.

MPs voted by 374 to 164 to reject a plan to delay the UK's departure from the EU until 22 May, 2019 so that there can be a "managed no-deal" Brexit. It was known as the Malthouse Compromise - after Kit Malthouse, the government minister who devised it.

Not Legally Binding

The vote, as I have mentioned numerous times, is not legally binding.

Moreover, the closeness of the vote suggests there could be a different vote the next time it is tabled.

On the whole, I suspect the no-deal odds just rose although the currency markets reacted the other way.


In the Guardian Live Blog, Theresa May Spoke of the consequences.

Here is the key passage from Theresa May’s statement responding to the two defeats tonight.

"The motion we will table [tomorrow] will set out the fundamental choice facing this house.

If the house finds a way in the coming days to support a deal, it would allow the government to seek a short limited technical extension to article 50 to provide time to pass the necessary legislation and ratify the agreement we have reached with the EU.

But let me be clear, such a short technical extension is only likely to be on offer if we have a deal in place.

Therefore, the house has to understand and accept that, if it is not willing to support a deal in the coming days, and as it is not willing to support leaving without a deal on 29 March, then it is suggesting that there will need to be a much longer extension to article 50. Such an extension would undoubtedly require the United Kingdom to hold European parliament elections in May 2019.

I do not think that would be the right outcome.

But the house needs to face up to the consequences of the decisions it has taken."

Minimum Requirements

Those are minimum requirements from the point of view of the UK only. The EU would have to agree to them.

Before that, the UK parliament would have to agree to a plan the EU would accept.

However, there still appear to be far too many factions to make that likely.

Point of Law

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the lead Tory Brexiter, asked the Commons speaker, John Bercow, to confirm that a motion of the house does not override statute law.

Bercow confirmed that is the case. Legally, today's vote is not binding. It is a request.

EU Commission Responds

Again, that's just what I said, and have said all along.

16 Days

The UK now has 16 days to agree to something. And it has to be something the EU will accept.

Remainer Feuding

May Votes Against Her Own Proposal

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Appearances Deceive

Most believe May's deal is dead. That's not the case.

If it appears a new motion would come close to gathering a majority, I would expect Theresa May to re-table a vote on her deal. Vs an option of Remain, it would likely win Tory backing, DUP backing, and some from Labour.

There no majority for remain and no majority for a Norway-style customs union. The customs union is the official policy of Labour. Tories would not go along, DUP would not go along, and even some in the Labour party would not go along.

Moreover, Norway already ruled out UK membership in the EFTA. Thus, Norway would be dead even if it did pass the UK parliament.

A Norway-Plus option that granted the UK trading rights while allowing the UK to void EU freedom of movement clauses is theoretically possible, but it would require UK parliamentary approval, EU approval, and it would have to be a separate agreement or Norway would reject it.

For discussions of the problems with Norway-Plus, please see Brexit and the Three Pigs: A Modern Fairy Tale

Default Setup

Today's bottom line suggests the odds of no-deal just rose despite the vote for the simple reason today's votes are not legally binding and various UK factions keep hoping for options that cannot fly.

The odds are slim that the UK votes to remain, May resigns, the UK votes for another referendum (to which the EU would have to agree to wait), or that the UK agrees to any action that is not rejected by either the EU or Norway.

My default setup remains:

There will be one more vote at the end of March for Theresa May's deal. It will either pass or it won't. There is no majority for anything else.

Today's vote was not meaningful, except perhaps that it made no-deal more likely.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

Comments (14)
No. 1-4

I want No Deal, not the idiot May's hideous so called 'Deal'. How she could even think that pile of cr*p was worthy of being signed and placed before Parliament is a mystery. She is deluded.


Meanwhile, Nigel Farage is urging the EU parliament to reject any proposed extension lest they be swamped with EU sceptics when EU elections take place in May. Neither pro-EU people nor the sceptics want that. It itonly takes one of 27 EU members to veto any proposed extension.


EU likely to want a longer Brexit extension and if so there will be EU parliamentary elections in UK.


OK, so the 312-308 vote was on amendment A to the bill, not the bill itself, which was "No Deal, No Leave on 3/29" - in other words, the amendment significantly tightened the bill, making it "No Deal, Never Leave" and thus was a big deal - it indicated that the House did not want a "No Deal" Brexit - and thus it was expected to be a lot tighter. As pointed out, it is not binding, but then the same can be said for the Referendum, if you want to go down that line of thinking. Also, it opens the door for May to cancel Article 50 and point to this vote. She can then say that when the House agrees to a deal that the EU approve of, Article 50 can be re-invoked (i.e. Brexit is off, because that will never happen).

There will be a vote today on an extension, but it will be meaningless unless a good reason is given. Good reasons are: a new referendum and a General Election. I can't think of any other reason for the EU to accept an extension, delaying a deadline vote is just extending the agony, and it is very unlikely that the EU will allow any extension that comes close to the May elections where they either need the UK to participate or not be part of the EU (otherwise, under EU law, the elections are not valid).

In my opinion, the most likely outcome is a deal whereby the House will vote for May's deal with a proviso that it includes and extension and a referendum that asks "May's Deal or Remain?", and is valid only if the EU agrees to the extension. Then the EU will be asked for an extension to allow the referendum, which I would expect them to accept, and it will go back to the people.

This mess will have to be reversed in 10-15 years when the UK reapplies to join the EU, and it will have to do so under much worse terms than Thatcher negotiated in the 1980s. Bloody madness, and a strong headwind against younger Brits, but this is what happens when you mix Libertarian morons with populism.

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