The British Parliament has rejected the Brexit bill, but it has also defeated the motion of no-confidence. Is there a mechanism in place for the PM to merge these two votes so that if you don't vote for the Brexit bill, you are automatically voting for no-confidence?

I understand that even if this were a possibility, maybe nobody would want to do it, but is it a technical possibility? Is there a system in place that allows/forbids motions to be interdependent? If so, can the merge be done solely by the Prime Minister or does it require a majority in Parliament?

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    FIY this is possible in other countries by "commitment of responsibility" e.g. in France with the [in]famous Article 49.3 of their constitution. Commented Apr 18, 2019 at 0:20
  • @Fizz yes, I was also thinking that I've seen this mechanism in some European countries. To me, it makes sense that countries would have procedural rules to avoid "indefinite" stalemates. I suppose there's always something that falls through the cracks though. Commented Apr 18, 2019 at 14:46

2 Answers 2


Only with new legislation

The Fixed-Term Paliaments Act (2011) explicitly lays out the form that a motion of no confidence must take.

(3)An early parliamentary general election is also to take place if—
(a)the House of Commons passes a motion in the form set out in subsection (4), and
(b)the period of 14 days after the day on which that motion is passed ends without the House passing a motion in the form set out in subsection (5).
(4)The form of motion for the purposes of subsection (3)(a) is— “That this House has no confidence in Her Majesty’s Government.”
(5)The form of motion for the purposes of subsection (3)(b) is— “That this House has confidence in Her Majesty’s Government.”

This could, of course, be altered by new legislation, but as it stands this is the only way a motion of no confidence can be passed.

Before the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, the government had the ability to declare any vote a confidence issue but this is no longer the case.

  • Thanks! Very interesting. Do you know if this was an intentional move, to prevent joining no-confidence with other motions? Or when they were changing early election rules and enshrining the verbiage, they "accidentally" prevented interdependence with other motions? (maybe not accidentally but as unintended byproduct) I have read the wikipedia page on this Act but it doesn't mention whether there were such motivations. Commented Apr 17, 2019 at 14:21
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    The act was mostly to stop the Liberal Democrats bringing down the coalition government easily. As far as I know, this was largely a side effect of taking away the government's power to simply call an election whenever they liked. It was intentional insofar as the bill was intended to more tightly control when elections could be called, but I don't think it was a specific motive for the passage of that act. (this is all somewhat speculative though) Commented Apr 17, 2019 at 14:30
  • The last paragraph is really important in the context of this question. +1
    – Jontia
    Commented Apr 17, 2019 at 14:30
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    @CoedRhyfelwr It wasn't to stop the Lib Dems from bringing down the Coalition government, but to stop the Conservatives from doing so and calling an early election as soon as it seemed that they could win in their own right and ditch the Lib Dems as partners.
    – Mike Scott
    Commented Apr 17, 2019 at 14:57
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    Fixed term parliaments had been in numerous Lib Dem manifestos going back years (e.g., from 1997: "We will establish a fixed Parliamentary term of four years"), it wasn't a simple reaction to the coalition government, but rather long standing party policy. Obviously the circumstances may have affected the wording of the bill, though!
    – gsnedders
    Commented Apr 17, 2019 at 21:39

The Prime Minister could simply announce "If the government is defeated on this vote, I will immediately ask Parliament to vote for an election, and whip all my party's MPs to vote for it." It wouldn't be legally binding, but it would be politically impossible not to follow through on the promise. Of course, it would need Opposition support to get the necessary 2/3 majority of MPs to vote for an early election, but Oppositions are generally happy to have elections.

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    The issue with that strategy is it requires the MPs to obey the whip. Lately, that is not a guarantee! The idea of tying a vote to a confidence issue was a recent attempt to make the whip stronger over the brexit meaningful votes, as there are many Tory MPs who didn't want an election, and might be willing to vote for the deal to avoid one. Commented Apr 17, 2019 at 14:11
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    @truckertucker The "payroll vote" of MPs with government jobs (including unpaid ones as Parliamentary Private Secretaries) has to vote with the government or resign from their job. That's about 140 MPs, and with Opposition votes it should generally be enough for a 2/3 majority.
    – Mike Scott
    Commented Apr 17, 2019 at 14:18
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    Could ask queen to dissolve it? Commented Apr 17, 2019 at 15:38
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    "but Oppositions are generally happy to have elections" - might be a poisoned chalice at the moment! :)
    – Lag
    Commented Apr 17, 2019 at 16:39
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    @Lag Even if the Opposition secretly wants to avoid an election, it can’t afford to look scared.
    – Mike Scott
    Commented Apr 17, 2019 at 18:14

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