Brexit Terms and the Commons – The Numbers for Round Two

Back in October, I looked at the likely voting numbers in the Commons ahead of Labour's motion for a parliamentary debate on Brexit strategy. Despite a notional Government majority of 16, the Government elected to accept Keir Starmer's opposition motion on 12 October, suggesting that they feared defeat.

I have updated the figures below ahead of Labour's opposition day debate on 7 December, which will call for the Government to publish a Brexit plan before invoking Article 50 to leave the European Union.

Relevant developments include by-elections in Batley and Spen (A Labour hold that was vacant in October following the murder of Jo Cox) and Richmond Park ( A Lib Dem gain), and the resignation of Stephen Phillips. The upshot is that the Government's nominal majority has fallen by 3 votes since October, although Phillips was a likely rebel.

If reports of at least 20 Tory rebels are accurate, then even with the DUP, the Government might need the support of Labour Brexiters and there are a limited number of those if the rebellion is any larger. The Government will no doubt attempt to mollify rebel backbenchers, but a climbdown may be harder than in October as Labour's demands become more concrete.

Current state of the parties at Westminster

Conservative 328 (Likely rise to 329 after the Sleaford by-election).
Labour 231
Scottish National Party 54
Liberal Democrat 9
Democratic Unionist Party 8
Independent 4
Sinn Fein 4
Plaid Cymru 3
Social Democratic & Labour Party 3
Ulster Unionist Party 2
Green Party 1
Speaker 1
UK Independence Party 1
Vacant 1
Total number of seats 650
Working Government Majority 13 (

Now lets divide those parties according to their likely willingness to support the motion:

Parties likely to support a Commons vote on Brexit.
Labour 231
Scottish National Party 54
Liberal Democrat 9
Plaid Cymru 3
Social Democratic & Labour Party 3
Green Party 1
Natalie McGarry 1- 'Yes. The "hard Brexit" being postured is not what was offered. Parliament must be able to review terms.' Twitter – 10 Oct 16.
Michelle Thomson. 1.

total 303

Parties likely to oppose a commons vote on Brexit.
Conservative 328
Democratic Unionist Party 8
UK Independence Party 1
total 337

Parties uncertain
Independent 2 -Simon Danczuk, Lady Hermon. 
Ulster Unionist Party 2.

Note that all four of these MPs supported remain in the referendum so there may be potential votes for the opposition here. 

MPs unlikely to vote
Sinn Fein 4
Speaker 1
Vacant 2

This gives us a notional Government majority of 34, so that the opposition would need around 35 government absentions or 17 switchers or a combination of both to win. Labour rebels could increase this figure, while some of MPs I have listed as uncertain could reduce it. The Guardian is reporting that there are at least 20 Tory Rebels.

Potential Government rebels

  1. Anna Soubry- 'Growing x party support for Parliament to shape #Brexit & manifesto commitments to #SingleMarket membership.' Twitter, 8 Oct 16.
  2. Nicky Morgan - @SophyRidgeSky: 'Nicky Morgan says "given the Brexit vote was about sovereignty," it would be "extraordinary" for Parliament not to have its say #murnaghan'. Twitter, 8 Oct 16.
  3. Nick Herbert – 'The question is not whether we leave the EU but on what terms. Conservatives must beware Brexit fundamentalism'. Guardian, 2 Oct 16.
  4. Ken Clarke – Wrote to a constituent that he would vote against triggering Article 50 if there was a Commons vote. Guardian, 13 September 16.
  5. Dominic Grieve – 'We undoubtedly need a vote in Parliament. It is a matter of convention.' Independent, 17 July 2016.
  6. George Osborne – 'Brexit won a majority. Hard Brexit did not.' Guardian, 23 September 2016.
  7. Neil Carmichael: "We would be reckless if we did not challenge some of the consequences of a hard, or harsh, Brexit." Independent, 2 October 16.
  8. Alistair Burt. ''It is one thing to come to Parliament and be engaged and tell Parliament what the Government are doing. It is quite another to come and be engaged and influenced by Parliament on things that we still need to clarify.'' Hansard, 10 Oct 16.
  9. Nicholas Soames.
  10. Andrew Tyrie.
  11. Ben Howlett.
  12. Claire Perry – 'The problem that the Secretary of State is not acknowledging is that many people in this country do not think that there is a policy to put the national interest first; they think that there is a policy to put people’s narrow ideological interests first.' Hansard, 12 Oct 16.
  13. Jeremy Lefroy – ' In addition to agreeing with the right hon. Member for East Ham and other hon. Members about having the fullest possible access and, if possible, being part of the single market, I will mention two points from my long experience of selling into the EU from outside it over more than two decades.' Hansard, 12 Oct 16.
  14. Sarah Wollaston.
  15. Stephen Phillips – The Government has 'no authority or mandate to adopt a negotiating position without reference to the wishes of the house', Guardian, 10 Oct 16. Update: Phillips' unhappiness with the Government's approach to Brexit was apparently a factor in his decision to resign his seat, triggering a by-election.

Potential Opposition rebels

Despite Labour's acceptance of the referendum outcome, It's possible that some of the small number of Labour MPs who supported Leave might oppose the motion. These included:

  1. Ronnie Campbell
  2. John Cryer
  3. Frank Field
  4. Roger Godsiff
  5. Kate Hoey
  6. Kelvin Hopkins
  7. John Mann
  8. Dennis Skinner
  9. Graham Stringer
  10. Gisela Stuart



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