MPs look set to vote on alternatives to Theresa May’s EU deal next week in an attempt to break the current Parliamentary deadlock over Brexit.
They could potentially consider up to six other options, including remaining in the customs union and single market, a no-deal exit or cancelling Brexit.
The aim would be to gauge what support there is for other courses of action.
Cabinet minister Greg Clark said it would be the “right step” if the prime minister’s deal failed again.
Conservative MP Sir Oliver Letwin, who is spearheading the move with senior Labour MPs including Hilary Benn, said he believed enough MPs would back an amendment to a government motion on Monday to trigger the so-called “indicative” votes later in the week.
But Conservative Brexiteer Marcus Fysh said the idea of giving MPs a menu of options after nearly two years of negotiations was “ludicrous and childish”, while ex-minister Steve Baker said it would end in “national humiliation”.
The EU has given the UK until 12 April to decide on a way forward in an attempt to break the current impasse.
On Thursday, EU leaders agreed to push back the date of Brexit from 29 March until 22 May if Parliament approves the withdrawal agreement at the third time of asking.
However, they said the UK would need to come up with a plan B within three weeks if MPs throw out Mrs May’s deal yet again.
Sir Oliver and Mr Benn hope that Plan B could emerge from indicative votes – with MPs effectively asked to choose from a menu of different options, to see which one gets the most backing.
How would indicative votes work?
By the BBC’s parliamentary correspondent Mark D’Arcy
If the Letwin amendment passes on Monday, it could allow a rough and ready version of the “indicative votes” process MPs have been discussing for some time now.
Alongside the PM’s deal, as many as six other options could be voted on, including:
- revoking Article 50 and cancelling Brexit
- another referendum
- the PM’s deal plus a customs union
- the PM’s deal plus both a customs union and single market membership
- a Canada-style free trade agreement
- leaving the EU without a deal
It is possible other options which could command reasonable levels of support might be added to the mix.
At the end all would be voted on simultaneously. MPs would fill out a ballot paper on each, voting for or against, and the relative support could then be seen.
Crucially, all the ballot-filling would be done at the same time; it would not be a case of MPs voting on one option, hearing the result, and then voting on the next. So there would be no tactical voting between options.
MPs will debate the next steps for Brexit on Monday, as the government scrambles to persuade enough of them to back her deal to hold another vote on it later in the week.
The indicative votes would not be binding on ministers.
But they would signal the degree of support among MPs for alternative options for the UK’s future relationship with the EU.
After meeting ministers on Friday, Sir Oliver said he believed those searching for a cross-party compromise “have the numbers” to guarantee indicative votes will go ahead on Wednesday.
“We are seeking to crystallise a majority in some form of proposition so we have a way forward,” he said.
MPs narrowly failed in an attempt to seize control of the Parliamentary agenda earlier this month to get indicative votes on to the Commons agenda.
But the government is now arguing that such a move will not be necessary – because they would provide an opportunity for MPs to express their views on different options, if the PM’s deal is voted down again.