If Prime Minister Theresa May loses her unloved Brexit deal vote, any Plan B debate among MPs will likely last only 90 minutes.
After more than two years of talking about Brexit, the controversial Dominic Grieve amendment that calls for May to present her back-up plan within three days, will go before the House of Commons for just 90 minutes and MPS can table a single amendment.
That could mean condensing the debate in to sound bites.
Grieve’s amendment was passed in Parliament on a 308-297 vote of MPs after Speaker John Bercow appeared to breach parliamentary convention.
The issue has left Bercow in a precarious position as MPs and voters call his impartiality to account.
MPs were quick to voice concern, with Labour MP Yvette Cooper raising a point of order a few hours later, asking Bercow to clarify that the government could allow more time for any plan B Brexit debate if it so wished.
Cooper said: “Given that the prime minister and the government are saying they want to listen, that they want to reach out, that they want to build consensus, how – if this is the case – can we believe anything that the government is saying.”
Bercow said that the default procedure under House of Commons standing order 16.1 is that “debates pursuant on an act of parliament must be concluded within 90 minutes”, which leads to a practical restriction on amendments.
This order would cover the Grieve amendment.
However, Bercow expects a longer debate.
Breach of trust
“I am extremely confident if that hypothetical scenario were to arise that colleagues would assert themselves,” he said.
Downing Street is expecting MPs to propose a string of amendments covering all Brexit options.
Meanwhile, May’s cabinet colleagues are hinting that if May’s Brexit deal is voted down, the most likely scenario would by staying in the EU.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt says going against the Prime Minister would paralyse Brexit.
“If we were, as a political class, not to deliver Brexit that would be a fundamental breach of trust between the people and the politicians and I think that would be something that we would regret for many, many generations,” Hunt said.