A look at the Commons votes for a Labour Referendum motion

Back in October, I wrote a post looking at how MPs were likely to vote on Theresa May's EU withdrawal agreement. A number of publications, including the New Statesman and Buzzfeed have since undertaken similar, no doubt better informed, exercises. Since my last update in mid-November, it's become conventional wisdom that Theresa May is likely to lose the withdrawal agreement vote on 11 December.

So I thought I'd take a look at what happens after that point. There are basically four options.

1. Accept the Withdrawal Agreement, possibly with changes to the accompanying (non-binding) Political Declaration and/or new or changed policy commitments by the UK Government.
2. Re-negotiate the Withdrawal Agreement. This looks unlikely as it has been ruled out by the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk.
3. No Deal Brexit. There is unlikely to the be a majority for this outcome in the House of Commons, it could happen by default if Parliament can't agree any of the other options.
4. Remain in the EU. This is unlikely to happen without a referendum, which Theresa May has ruled out but to which to the EU and the Labour Party have left the door open.

A referendum vote in the Commons is unlikely to succeed without Labour support, and the chances of Labour having to follow through on its promise to keep a referendum 'on the table' are rising. Labour has ruled out options 1 and 3 and the EU has ruled out option 2. That leaves option 4.

The New Statesman's Stephen Bush reported a few days ago that Labour would put down a motion for a referendum which it expected to lose because Labour rebels against a referendum would outweigh Conservative rebels in favor of one. He has since suggested that judgement may need to be revised following the resignation of Universities Minister Sam Gyimah on Friday.

So here's a rough sketch of how the numbers might look if Labour did back a referendum. Beyond the basic state of the parties, all of these numbers are very provisional, especially the figures in brackets for potential rebels. Paul Waugh suggests that both Tory and Labour rebellions could end up at around 30 votes, cancelling each other out and therefore favouring the government.

For a referendum

Labour 257 – Labour rebels.

SNP 35. (I think this is most likely in the event, but see Patrick Maguire for a qualification. New Statesman, 29 Nov 2018).

Lib Dems 11. Most Lib Dems have signed up to back the People's Vote campaign (iNews, 28 November 2018).

Plaid Cymru 4.

Green Party 1.

Jared O'Mara (Independent) (Statement 16 Oct 2018).

Likely Conservative rebels (10)

Heidi Allen – Guto Bebb – Damian Collins – Justine Greening – Dominic Grieve – Jo Johnson – Philip Lee – Anna Soubry – Sarah Wollaston (New Statesman, 29 November 2018.) – Sam Gyimah

Against Referendum

Conservatives 315 – Conservative Rebels.

DUP 10.

Frank Field (Independent)

Kelvin Hopkins (Independent)

Charlie Elphicke (Independent)

Andrew Griffiths (Independent)

Likely Labour rebels (14). Stephen Bush suggests the Labour rebellion on the EEA amendment as a likely baseline. (New Statesman, 28 November 2018).
Dennis Skinner – Laura Smith – Gareth Snell – John Spellar – Graham Stringer – John Mann – Kevan Jones – Ronnie Campbell – Kate Hoey – Mike Hill – Sir Kevin Barron – Rosie Cooper – Jim Fitzpatrick – Caroline Flint

Doubtful/Uncertain/More information needed

Stephen Lloyd – a lone Lib Dem who is backing May's Withdrawal Agreement. New European, 22 November 2018.

Lady Hermon – Likely to vote for May's Withdrawal Agreement.

Ivan Lewis – Undecided. Twitter 18 Nov 2018.

John Woodcock – tweeted favourably re. People's vote. Twitter 27 Nov 2018.

My first back of a fag packet run through these figures sees a government majority of 30. To overturn this would take another 16 Tory rebels emerging along with one more for every Labour rebel.

It's very likely that the Conservative rebellion will grow, but it's also unlikely that I've accounted for all Labour rebels, so the People's Vote campaign has a lot of ground to make up in coming weeks.







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