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Following today's vote, some commentators proclaimed May's deal is dead and no-deal is dead as well. They are wrong on both counts.

The moral of today's story is that votes are not meaningful unless the government gets what it wants.

Support for May's Deal Increases

People who voted against the deal at Meaningful Vote 2 but for it this time include: Lucy Allan, Richard Bacon, Crispin Blunt, Conor Burns, Rehman Chishti, Simon Clarke, Damian Collins, Rosie Cooper, Robert Courts, Richard Drax, Iain Duncan Smith, Charlie Elphicke, Michael Fabricant, Sir Michael Fallon, Jim Fitzpatrick, James Gray, Chris Green, Mark Harper, Gordon Henderson, Eddie Hughes, Boris Johnson, Gareth Johnson, Daniel Kawczynski, Pauline Latham, Andrew Lewer, Ian Liddell-Grainger, Jonathan Lord, Esther McVey, Anne Main, Sheryll Murray, Tom Pursglove, Dominic Raab, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Grant Shapps, Henry Smith, Royston Smith, Bob Stewart, Ross Thomson, Michael Tomlinson, Craig Tracey, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Shailesh Vara, and John Whittingdale.


34 Tories voted against the deal, five Labour MPs backed the deal.

Scorecard Analysis

May's deal lost 344-286. That's a total of 58 votes, but it's closer than it may look. May needs to filp 29 votes and DUP is wavering.

With that, let's tune into the Guardian Live Blog "May hints at possible need for election, saying MPs 'reaching limits' of Brexit process"

to see what others suggest. I am going to hop around to highlight the key ideas, not necessarily in time order.

Government Response

Some label today's vote as MV3 other's MV2. I go with MV3 and expect MV4. The next vote will be the 4th time not the 3rd.

May Will Press On

In her speech today May said she would press on with her deal.

"This House has rejected no deal. It has rejected no Brexit. On Wednesday it rejected all the variations of the deal on the table. And today it has rejected approving the withdrawal agreement alone and continuing a process on the future. This government will continue to press the case for the orderly Brexit that the result of the referendum demands."

That was the conclusion of her speech. and it;s very clear. She is pressing for MV4.

The Guardian says that May "hinted" at elections based on these statements.

"The legal default now is that the United Kingdom is due to leave the European Union on 12 April. In just 14 days’ time. This is not enough time to agree, legislate for and ratify a deal, and yet the House has been clear it will not permit leaving without a deal. And so we will have to agree an alternative way forward."

I fail to see how anything hints at elections other than European Parliament elections.

"The European Union has been clear that any further extension will need to have a clear purpose and will need to be agreed unanimously by the heads of the other 27 member States ahead of 12 April. It is also almost certain to involve the UK being required to hold European parliamentary elections."

Commentators assume too much of what they want to hear into these alleged "hints".


The DUP’s deputy leader, Nigel Dodds, has hinted the door is not closed on his party supporting Theresa May and her deal. He confirmed the party’s position was a “principled” one, centred on the union of the UK and the threat the backstop posed to that. But in a statement, he suggested the problems were not insurmountable in the DUP’s view.

That's quite a change, assuming the statement is accurately portrayed.

If DUP switches I believe May's deal passes. Many Tories will follow and likely some in Labour if DUP hops on board.

Why the change? If that is an official change not just an obscure "hint", then DUP fears other things more than the backstop.

Call for General Election

Len McCluskey, the general secretary of the Unite trade union, has called for a general election or a free vote in the Commons to break the Brexit impasse. "Theresa May’s Brexit deal is now dead. It has been rejected by the House of Commons three times. Its demise is testament to the prime minister’s failure to act as a national rather than a party leader. Her efforts to reach out beyond the ranks of the Tory hard right have been too little and too late," said McCluskey.

That's nonsense of course. May's deal is not dead until she takes it off the table or it's replaced by something that she will accept. May clearly will press on with her deal. She said so explicitly.

Snap Election?

A UK snap election would not end the EU requirement that Britain stage European parliament elections if it wishes to remain in the EU beyond 23 May, the date of the European elections, stated Norbert Röttgen, the German parliament’s foreign affairs committee chair.

"If Britain decides to be members on the European Union on the day of the European elections then European citizens have the right to take part in the European elections. You cannot deny citizens the right to take part in European elections. That is clear," said Röttgen.

Bingo. A snap election solves nothing unless the UK agrees by April 11 to hold European Parliament elections.

This setup is a huge danger for those who believe the EU will honor a lengthy extension request. France, or any other nation just might say no if the request is made after April 11.

Macron is itching to boot the UK. He has had enough. He just does not want to take the blame.

There is no vote scheduled on holding those elections. It has to happen by on or before April 11. The proposed Easter Recess starts April 4. That's less than a week away.

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Chris Grayling, Brexiter Transport Secretary

"What the house has just done is to vote effectively to leave the EU on 12 April with no deal, reversing Brexit, or kicking it into the far long grass. I don’t think that’s what the majority in this country wants. We are going to have to think very hard over the next few hours how we respond to that. This is a hugely disappointing response that is absolutely not in the national interest."

Meaningful Vote Runoff

That is one option for May. Another is to resign immediately and thet the next Tory government take the blame for anything that goes wrong.

We still do not know what is in May's head. May's statement clarified nothing other than her unwillingness to take her deal off the table.

No Deal Likely

EU says no-deal scenario now 'likely' and managed no deal won't be on offer. The European Commission issued this Press Release on today's vote.

The Commission regrets the negative vote in the House of Commons today. As per the European Council (Article 50) decision on 22 March, the period provided for in Article 50(3) is extended to 12 April. It will be for the UK to indicate the way forward before that date, for consideration by the European Council.

A “no-deal” scenario on 12 April is now a likely scenario. The EU has been preparing for this since December 2017 and is now fully prepared for a “no-deal” scenario at midnight on 12 April. The EU will remain united. The benefits of the Withdrawal Agreement, including a transition period, will in no circumstances be replicated in a “no-deal” scenario. Sectoral mini-deals are not an option.


The first paragraph and first sentence of the second paragraph of the EC's statement are accurate.

The reference to "sectoral min-deals" is a warning to hard-Brexiteers to not believe they can negotiate a Canada-style deal piecemeal.

Yes, that's off the table, until no-deal happens. Then all options are back on the table, no matter what the EU says. In practice, both sides will have numerous red lines. Once those are solved, there may be a piecemeal approach or a big deal approach.

Since the EU will take far more damage than the UK, there either will be a quick series of min-deals or a bit longer big bang. It won't matter much.

I expect something in between. Critical items negotiated quickly. Then one big deal after a longer negotiation.

Emergency EU Meeting

In light of today's vote, the EU has scheduled an emergency meeting.

It acts as if no-deal is still the default for the simple reason no-deal is the legal default, no matter what nonsense the UK thinks it has decided in the nonbinding indicative votes.

Eurointelligence Change of Tune

This morning, Eurointelligence reconsidered its opinion presented yesterday that the most likely option was a soft Brexit customs union.

After analyzing the voting data for the first round of the indicative votes, we have become less optimistic. The number of Tories supporting a softer Brexit was surprisingly small. Only 33 Tories supported Kenneth Clarke’s version of a customs union - the option that came closest to an overall majority. And only eight supported the second referendum. And remember: Labour whipped its MPs in support of the referendum while the Tories allowed a free vote. In terms of support for a referendum, this is as good as it can get.

The second, more critical, potential misjudgment is that the failure to agree on anything before the April 10 European Council would automatically trigger a long delay - as opposed to a hard Brexit on April 12. We believe the UK should not take for granted the possibility of a longer extension. Emmanuel Macron is the most vocal member of the European Council to insist there will be only a short delay unless there is a clear majority for an alternative mandate. This has not happened yet. Also, even if the UK were to propose a second referendum a longer delay is not guaranteed. Nathalie Loiseau, who leads Macron’s party into the European elections, called a second referendum a denial of democracy. Even if it is only her personal view, you can imagine that this argument will have some traction in France and elsewhere.

The situation therefore remains highly dynamic. We would urge readers to distrust the argument that a no-Brexit cannot happen on the grounds that the UK parliament has voted to take it off the table. The EU has interests of its own. Of course, the EU would ultimately extend if the UK were to agree to a second referendum or hold a general election. But we think that it would be risky for May to return to Brussels with nothing to offer except a grudging acknowledgement that the UK would organise European elections after all.

Also consider the asymmetric impact of a long extension on the balance of power in the European Parliament. The EP currently has 751 members, including 73 from the UK. The plan had been to allocate 27 of the UK's seats to other countries. The two biggest beneficiaries would be France and Spain, with five seats each. We conclude that Macron’s politically-important post election leverage would be substantially reduced as a result of the UK taking part in European elections.

Highly Dynamic Setup

That's quite a switch from yesterday, but one I fully expected.

We both could be wrong.

I stick with my essential viewpoint, that we do not know what's in Theresa May's head other than she still presses on with her deal.

Unless and until Parliament votes for another idea that she is willing to take to the EU and that the EU is willing to accept, one can neither rule out her deal nor no-deal.

What's in May's Head?

May has a lot of options she can take that Parliament can't. The most important of them is to threaten to resign immediately, not on May 22, or to call for new elections.

This former give Labour a potential choice of her deal or Boris Johnson, the latter creates huge uncertainty for the Tories.

For discussion of this idea and other options May has, please see What the Heck is in Theresa May's Head? Who's the Next PM? Many More Questions.

Today's vote clarified little other than May is sticking with her plan to force a binary option: Her deal or no-deal.

Parliament tried to put in option number three, soft Brexit, but so far has failed. Meanwhile, the EU fully expects no-deal.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock