Recently, in the news, there has been much talk of Brexit votes. In particular, the votes of the House of Commons on specific amendments, like amendments in which the Commons supports the PM's deal, or votes on a no deal, or to extend the exit date. All of these amendments are spoken of in the same context. But what Bill are these amendments actually amending?


what Bill are these amendments actually amending?


They are amendments to a government motion for debate.

For example this motion:

That this House declines to approve leaving the European Union without a Withdrawal Agreement and a Framework for the Future Relationship on 29 March 2019; and notes that leaving without a deal remains the default in UK and EU law unless this House and the EU ratify an agreement.

On which MPs will each vote aye or nay at 7 p.m. today 13th March 2019.

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  • 1
    Thanks for that answer and for the text of the motion. I had not previously noticed that the motion makes a rather misleading statement: leaving without a deal may be called a 'default' outcome in the absence of a deal, but there is yet another possibility in the absence of a deal. The UK may without a deal withdraw its notice under Article 50 to leave the EU. However unlikely that seems right now, the European Court of Justice confirmed late last year that withdrawal of the UK's notice to leave can be done unilaterally by the UK, no consent of other member states or EU bodies required. – terry-s Mar 13 '19 at 19:01
  • @terry-s It was cunningly drafted, the second part not mentioned when the PM had promised the motion the night before. She had also indicated it would be a "free vote". Caroline Spelman, (Conservative), and about a dozen Labour members tabled an amendment, the vote on which the government then decided would be whipped. The government "leaned upon" Spelman to withdraw, and assumed it had been taken off the order paper. However the Speaker (who thankfully knows his onions) pointed out that the tabled amendment was now "owned by the House", so if the co-proposer wished to proceed she could. – WS2 Mar 14 '19 at 0:15
  • Continued: So Yvette Cooper (Labour), one of the co-proposers, did indicate a wish to proceed and it was carried by about 3 votes. It then became part of the substantive motion, which won by 48 votes - meaning that the House has now expressed its wish to remove the possibility of "no deal" at any point in the future. – WS2 8 mins ago – WS2 Mar 14 '19 at 0:15
  • Actual outcome is now available: theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2019-03-13a.383.0 - please note that the motion was amended from the original text quoted in this answer. – pjc50 Mar 14 '19 at 11:45

I agree with @redgrittybrick 's answer, and would only add, that the fact that a House of Commons resolution is voted for, is in itself no guarantee that what they vote for is actually within their legal or constitutional power to legislate or achieve.

Thus, for example, their disapproval of a no-deal 'Brexit' does not prevent that outcome, which depends on the operation of EU law.

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