On 12 July, the UK government published a white paper on its vision for the future relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union, dubbed the Chequers plan.

There is disagreement on this plan. For example, as many as 80 Conservative MPs are prepared to vote against the prime minister's Chequers plan, a former Brexit minister has warned.

What vote are they talking about? Do MPs vote on white papers and is there a vote scheduled on this particular white paper? But the negotiations based on the UK position have already started, so then they should hurry up. Or are they talking on the vote on a final deal? This deal does not yet exist, so they couldn't have formed an opinion yet.

Surely nobody can reasonably believe that a Brexit deal between the UK and the EU is going to be identical to the opening bid of the UK government?

  • I believe parliament ratification is statutory. Mostly because the treaty would change UK domestic law. The vote would be on the actual deal ratification. Nevertheless it seems to me that the comment from Baker is a power move inside the Tory party. It's another way of saying: "Even if EU/UK agreed on a deal today we would still be able to vote it down". The real question is if there is enough hard brexit support in the Tory party to enforce it just by doing a negotiation embargo.
    – armatita
    Commented Sep 10, 2018 at 14:13
  • @armatita Do you mean parliament ratification of the white paper, or parliament ratification of a Brexit treaty? The former does not change UK law, the latter does not exist yet, so I don't understand what vote they are talking about when they say they are going to vote against. How can they declare to vote against a treaty before there is a treaty?
    – gerrit
    Commented Sep 10, 2018 at 14:20
  • I mean the ratification. They're basically saying that they won't ratify the deal (any deal which does not follow their criteria, which apparently chequers does not). Although, again, I see it more as a threat than an actual declaration of intent. I think it would be contentious, to say the least, to put the country in a no-deal situation using this "negotiation embargo" (and very risky politically, we are talking about a faction within a political party with a minority government). I would not take it very seriously at least for now.
    – armatita
    Commented Sep 10, 2018 at 14:45
  • 1
    @armatita But there is no proposed deal yet, therefore nothing to ratify, therefore there is no vote, therefore I don't understand what they are talking about. All we have is is a UK government white paper that presents the UK position in the ongoing negotiations with the EU27.
    – gerrit
    Commented Sep 10, 2018 at 14:58
  • Yes. That is why I believe this is threat. A way of forcing Theresa May into their side and consequently the majority of the party. They couldn't just say: "we will vote against any deal the EU would accept". It would be a shoot in the foot, almost half the country voted to remain. So instead they criticize the Chequers proposal and, by association, any other that would be more (by comparison) pro-EU integration. You'll probably not see many MPs declaring themselves in favor of a hard brexit, even if in truth they are. It just would not resonate well with many UK citizens (leave included).
    – armatita
    Commented Sep 10, 2018 at 15:16

3 Answers 3


The government promised a "meaningful vote" on the final deal struck with the EU. That has now been made law by parliament.

The MPs are threatening to vote against the deal if it is done based on the model Theresa May set out at the Chequers club. These rebels feel that it gives to much power to the EU and leaves the UK with toob little freedom in exchange for access to the EU market.

While it is unlikely to be the exact offer she set out, it defines important concessions such as regulatory alignment and the UK collecting import tariffs on the EU's behalf. It also accepts the "backstop" for the Irish border, which would see the UK remain in the customs union or a new border in the Irish sea if no other acceptable solution can be found.

Unfortunately, like most things brexit, what happens if these 80 rebel is unclear. The precise meaning of a "meaningful vote" was never specified. However, 80 is more then enough to ensure that the government loses the vote, which would likely be pretty fatal for May and leave the UK in a very difficult position.


Two quotes from that BBC article in your question (emphasis is mine):

He warned of a "catastrophic split" if his party was not able to unite around a different, more flexible arrangement.

He told the Press Association that the lack of support for Mrs May's plan, which would involve the UK accepting a common rule book for trade in goods, among Tory MPs left her with a "massive problem" in the run-up to next month's Conservative conference.

To me, the parts in bold could be construed as threats: present a different plan or we (those 80 Conservative MPs) will stop backing the PM.

By Conservative party rules, 15% of its MPs can trigger a vote of no confidence . In the current parliament, 48 MPs need to write a letter to the chairman of the relevant committee.

Therefore, if May sticks with her Chequers plan, a vote of no confidence in her leadership is a vote against that plan.

Edit: I recommend this news report by Channel 4 giving insight in the rebels' position regarding the PM and the Chequers deal. Around 6.40, the interviewer asks Reese Mogg if May would have to go if she doesn't change strategy. Unfortunately, he doesn't reply with a straight answer (stating that the PM has changed her mind before).

  • I see. Yes, they could do that. That's different from users answer, which confirms that the BBC article (and others) are ambiguous…
    – gerrit
    Commented Sep 11, 2018 at 8:55
  • @gerrit well, the BBC just reports what happens. Those MPs aren't very straightforward in their statements / threats.
    – JJJ
    Commented Sep 11, 2018 at 9:01

The prime minister was given a three hour savaging in the House of Commons last week, as her entire party and the Opposition turned on her, and vied with each other to rubbish her 500 page "agreement", negotiated with the EU, which they all said they are not going to agree.

If they vote it down, as they promise to do, there is then no agreement regulating the UK's exit from the EU, so there is nothing more to vote on.

This is called a "hard Brexit": the UK exits without any transitional arrangements.

In so far as elements of the Chequers plan have been incorporated into the 500 page "agreement", they will be voted down, as it seems that no MP except Mrs May herself supports her proposals.


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