Theresa May faces Brexit deadlock

By Rob Picheta and Lauren Said-Moorhouse, CNN

Updated 5:32 AM ET, Tue April 2, 2019
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1:02 p.m. ET, April 1, 2019

Semi-naked protesters distract MPs in Commons

While lawmakers debate indicative votes, they're having to battle a fairly significant distraction.

About a dozen climate protesters stripped down and pressed themselves against the glass of the viewing gallery that overlooks the Commons. It's an inventive way to make a point, and it's received the attention of several MPs.

The climate group Extinction Rebellion said in a tweet that they were responsible. (Warning: some readers may find the photographs explicit.)

John Bercow, the Speaker, has asked MPs to press on.

12:30 p.m. ET, April 1, 2019

The Brexit motions that made the cut -- and the ones that didn't

Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

The Speaker has selected four motions for MPs to cast their ballots on later, and they won't make happy reading for the government. Two of them favor a so-called soft Brexit, one calls for a second referendum, and a fourth would give lawmakers a vote on revoking Article 50, the legal process by which the UK is leaving the EU.

There was some question over whether both Customs Union motions would be chosen. Motion C, the "pure" Customs Union plan, came the closest to securing a majority of MPs last week, losing by just six votes. But Motion D, which calls for membership of a Customs Union and the Single Market, has picked up plenty of buzz on Monday and has a real chance to succeed after Labour and the SNP said they'd back it.

Those advocating for a second referendum will be pleased to see Motion E get the go-ahead. That plan calls for any eventual Brexit deal to be put to a confirmatory referendum, against the option of remaining in the EU.

It's a call Labour has backed in recent weeks, and could provide Theresa May a way of getting her Withdrawal Agreement through the House of Commons.

Motion G is a new twist on a plan that was put forward last week. It gives MPs the chance to cancel Brexit -- but for over-excited Remainers, there's a catch.

In the event that the EU denies the UK a longer Brexit delay on April 10, the motion allows for Parliament to have an eleventh-hour vote between leaving with no deal or revoking Article 50. If you've been enjoying the soap opera that is Brexit, that would provide quite the series finale.

What was rejected: A plan to amend the Withdrawal Agreement to remove the controversial backstop -- which has been explicitly ruled out by both the EU and Theresa May -- wasn't taken forward. The Speaker noted that the European Union has rejected this course of action.

Also rejected as a motion that called for a no-deal Brexit in the event that a Withdrawal Agreement isn't passed by April 12. The Speaker explained that he rejected that plan because it essentially sets out the legal default option, and noted that it was overwhelmingly rejected last week.

A motion calling for a so-called People's Vote if a no-deal Brexit became likely was also ruled out, meaning that the hopes of those wanting to see a second referendum will hinge on Motion E alone.

The final rejected plan called for the UK to enter the European Economic Area and indicate an intention to rejoin the European Free Trade Association after Brexit.

12:00 p.m. ET, April 1, 2019

BREAKING: Four motions chosen for tonight's votes

John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, has just announced the indicative vote motions that MPs will be voting on tonight.

He's chosen four from a list of eight. They are:

Motion C, Customs Union -- This motion calls on the government to ensure that the Brexit plan includes a permanent and comprehensive UK-wide customs union with the EU.

Motion D, Common Market 2.0 -- This proposal wants the Political Declaration -- which covers the future relationship between the UK and the EU -- to be renegotiated so that the UK joins the European Free Trade Association, through which is retains its membership of the European Economic Area, or Single Market. The UK would also seek to negotiate a "comprehensive customs arrangement" with the EU.

Motion E, Confirmatory public vote -- Parliament would not be allowed to ratify any Brexit deal until it has been confirmed by a referendum.

Motion G, Parliamentary Supremacy -- This motion has a series of actions. If the no withdrawal agreement has been agreed by noon on April 10, the UK must seek a delay to Brexit from the bloc. If the EU does not agree to a further extension, then government must allow MPs to choose between leaving without a real and revoking Article 50, which would scrap the Brexit process altogether.

11:52 a.m. ET, April 1, 2019

Brexiteer changes mind on May's deal -- again

Conservative MP and hardline Brexiteer Richard Drax has apologized in the Commons for supporting Theresa May's Brexit deal last week.

He confirmed he'll be switching to oppose the deal if it's put forward a fourth time – having switched to supporting it on Friday.

"I do not feel I have misled the House, but I do feel I have not been true to myself," Drax said. "Although doing what I believed to be in the country's best interests at that moment in time, I quickly realized that I should not have voted with the Government on Friday afternoon."

Drax also apologized to the DUP, who have been firm in their opposition to the Withdrawal Agreement, for his "wrong call." He added that he will now return to supporting a no-deal Brexit.

"The Withdrawal Agreement as it stands must never ever see the light of day again," Drax said. "Spring is here. Time for a new start for us all. Let's take our country back in 11 days' time and fulfil our honorable duty."

11:34 a.m. ET, April 1, 2019

What is Common Market 2.0?

Analysis from CNN's Luke McGee

While everyone is getting very excited at the increasing possibility of the alternative Brexit plan known as Common Market 2.0 receiving the support of both Labour and the Scottish Nationalists, let's take a little look at the pros and cons of this plan.

Common Market 2.0 is a very soft Brexit, in which the UK formally leaves the EU but remains very closely aligned to it, through membership of the single market. The plan also calls for a customs arrangement between the UK and the EU that avoids a hard border on the island of Ireland.

The plan has advantages and disadvantages, depending on your perspective.

Under this plan, the UK would apply to join the European Free Trade Association, which would allow the UK to trade with the EU and other EFTA nations (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) on similar terms to now.

Via EFTA, the UK would also continue its membership of the European Economic Area, meaning it would retain access to the EU's single market.

Under EFTA rules, the UK can still -- in theory at least -- strike its own trade deals while more or less maintaining trading ties with the EU. It will also result in minimal disruption to its world-class services industry.

The UK would also leave the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in all areas other than those which affect the EEA. Crucially for some Brexiteers, the UK could also leave the EU's Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy. (Despite making up less than 0.05% of the UK's economy, the fishing industry has played a huge part in the Brexit debate.)

But as a member of the single market, the UK would have to abide by the four freedoms of movement: Goods, services, capital and people. That last one is a problem for Brexiteers, as it means the UK would not have full control over the number of people coming through its borders. That's also a huge issue for many in the Labour ranks.

The UK would also have to continue making huge contributions to the EU, something that Brexiteers promised would end.

And the unique customs arrangement envisioned by Common Market 2.0 is unprecedented among EFTA membership and contradictory to current EFTA rules.

So, there's no guarantee that it could be achieved, meaning the Irish border question is not necessarily answered. While it looks a very clever plan, it runs into many of the same problems as every other plan.

11:37 a.m. ET, April 1, 2019

Lawmakers are debating the "Revoke Article 50" petition

While some MPs squabble over the order of today's proceedings in the Commons, others are heading to Westminster Hall to hold a debate on the record-breaking petition calling on Britain to cancel Brexit altogether.

The petition, which calls on the government to revoke Article 50 and cancel the departure process, has been signed more than 6 million times - an unprecedented rate that caused Parliament's petitions website to crash repeatedly.

MPs will also have the chance to debate two smaller petitions on Brexit. One, which calls for a second referendum, was signed by 160,000 people, and a second, which urges Parliament to "honour the referendum result," has 165,000 signatures.

11:19 a.m. ET, April 1, 2019

Juncker called David Cameron a "great destroyer"

Juncker (left) and David Cameron at an EU summit in 2016.
Juncker (left) and David Cameron at an EU summit in 2016. STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/Getty Images

Former British prime minister David Cameron blocked senior EU figures from taking part in the 2016 referendum campaign, the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has said.

"We were forbidden from being present in any way in the referendum campaign by Mr. Cameron, who is one of the great destroyers of modern times," Juncker said in a speech in Saarbrücken, Germany on Monday.

"Because he said the Commission is even less popular in the UK than it is in other EU member states. That's quite a task to be less popular in the UK than anywhere else," he added.

That meant the campaign was uninformed, Juncker suggested -- and it's coming back to bite Britain now.

"If we had been able to take part in this campaign, we could have asked — and also answered — many questions that are only being asked now," Juncker said.

"Nobody knows where we are at. We know what the British Parliament does not want – but we still do not know what it really wants," Juncker added.

"Today is yet another Brexit day – the fourth vote, if I have counted correctly," he said. In fact, even Juncker has lost count -- including the three votes on May's deal and two rounds of indicative votes, it's actually the fifth big day for the Commons.

11:15 a.m. ET, April 1, 2019

Tonight's vote "extremely concerning for democracy," House leader says

Andrea Leadsom, the Leader of the House of Commons.
Andrea Leadsom, the Leader of the House of Commons. TOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Images

Lawmakers are debating today's business motion, which, if passed, will allow the House of Commons to hold indicative votes tonight.

That's given Andrea Leadsom, the Leader of the House of Commons, another chance to set out the government's opposition to the indicative votes process. She told lawmakers:

"The government has consistently said that we do not support the unprecedented removal of government control of the order paper, no matter the circumstances."

She added: "The government will be listening carefully to Parliament today – but as I have explained, the approach to today’s business sets an extremely concerning precedent for our democracy," she added.

Leadsom confirmed that the government will be opposing the business motion – but there's no real danger of it failing to pass.

10:31 a.m. ET, April 1, 2019

A Brexit plan finds common ground

Analysis from CNN's Luke McGee

The main opposition Labour Party might have just broken the Brexit deadlock. Shadow Cabinet sources have told CNN that they've been told the party will be "whipping in support of Common Market 2.0."

The plan would pave the way for a much softer Brexit than that preferred by many in Theresa May's Conservative Party, as it retains strong economic ties to the EU.

It also has a strong nod to history. The UK joined what was then the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1973 – and voted to remain a member in a 1975 referendum. The leader of the Conservative party, Margaret Thatcher, then in opposition, was an enthusiastic cheerleader for the bloc, which was much more of a free-trade area than a political union. At the time, it was widely known as the Common Market.

The Member of Parliament who has put forward Common Market 2.0, Nick Boles, happens to be a Conservative.

No doubt, the name of the plan was carefully chosen to appeal to Euroskeptic Conservatives, who A) have less of a problem with free trade than they do with loss of political sovereignty and B) a keen sense of political nostalgia.

Labour's support could yet be a problem. It's an open secret that any deal relying for success on Labour could split the Conservative Party. So while Common Market 2.0 might win the show tonight, it's seems unlikely to be adopted as government policy.

It's not just the Conservatives who are worried about cross-party unity: Labour sources are skeptical about doing anything that might ultimately help a Conservative plan pass. "Expect abstentions and votes against from Labour MPs," another shadow cabinet source told CNN.

The developments, which came around 3 p.m. local time, have caused ripples of excitement in Westminster. But one caveat: Labour's whipping operation could be generously described as fluid at the moment. As our shadow cabinet source put it: "You know this place and Brexit. Things are changing from hour to hour 😱."