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News: Pound falls after UK MPs vote on Brexit amendments

Last night, UK Members of Parliament (MPs) voted on multiple proposed amendments to the Brexit deal. Below, we outline the key feature of each amendment, and which got passed. For more details on each amendment, you can read the full order paper from the debates here.

Corbyn Amendment - Rejected

Proposed by: Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Labour Party

Key Features:

  • Ruled out a 'No Deal' Brexit - and include a UK Parliament vote on options to avoid a no deal scenario

  • Presented a new plan involving a permanent customs union with the EU

  • Legislating to hold a public referendum on a deal (that includes single market participation) with option of remaining in EU

Result: REJECTED (327 votes against; 296 votes for)

Blackford Amendment - Rejected

Proposed by: Ian Blackford, Leader of the Scottish National Party at Westminster

Key Features:

  • Called for extension to Article 50 (i.e. delaying Brexit date)

  • Ruled out a 'No Deal' Brexit

  • Emphasised role of individual UK nations in the negotiations (particularly Scotland - "the people of Scotland should not be taken out of the EU against their will" p.10)

Result: REJECTED (327 votes against; 39 votes for)

Grieve Amendment - Rejected

Proposed by: Dominic Grieve, Conservative MP

Key Features:

  • Ordered 6 full days of parliamentary debate on alternative plans

  • MPs would be able to table amendments to be voted on after the debate (e.g. second referendum)

Result: REJECTED (321 votes against; 301 votes for)

Cooper Amendment - Rejected

Proposed by: Yvette Cooper, Labour MP

Key Features:

  • Involved tabling a bill to bring in new law, formally obliging an extension of Article 50 if no deal was reached by 26 February

Result: REJECTED (321 votes against; 298 votes for)

Reeves Amendment - Rejected

Proposed by: Rachel Reeves, Labour MP

Key Features:

  • Called for Brexit to be postponed if no deal was approved by UK Parliament by 26 February

Result: REJECTED (322 votes against; 290 votes for)

Spelman Amendment - Approved

Proposed by: Dame Caroline Spelman, Conservative MP, and Jack Dromey, Labour MP

Key Features:

  • Ruled out a 'No Deal' Brexit in principle (although this would not be legally binding)

Result: APPROVED (310 votes against; 318 votes for)

Brady Amendment - Approved

Proposed by: Sir Graham Brady, Conservative MP (and chair of the Conservative backbench 1922 Committee)

Key Features:

  • Replaces the Northern Ireland backstop with alternative arrangements to avoid a hard border

  • Supports leaving the EU - and therefore the withdrawal agreement (subject to the above change)

Result: APPROVED (301 votes against; 317 votes for)

What does this all mean?

In short, the majority of MPs reject May's deal as it currently stands. They also reject a No Deal Brexit, but rejected the power to formally stop a No Deal scenario themselves (this power could have come from the Cooper amendment).

Thanks to the passing of the Brady amendment, the Commons has given the Prime Minister a mandate to renegotiate the Irish backstop - the main point of contention in the current Brexit deal, and the reason why most MPs do not currently support it. If she is able to replace the backstop with an alternative arrangement that avoids a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, her deal will be passed in the Commons.

The Prime Minister (PM) Theresa May concluded proceedings by saying she will go back to Brussels to renegotiate the backstop, despite noting that the EU does not currently want to change this arrangement. She also restated her offer to meet with Jeremy Corbyn (leader of the Labour party - the opposition). Although he previously refused such a meeting until No Deal was taken off the table, now that the Spelman amendment has passed (which rejects a No Deal) Corbyn has accepted this offer and said he will meet with the PM.

Response from the EU

A spokesman for Donald Tusk - President of the European Council - responded last night by welcoming the rejection of a No Deal Brexit, but himself rejected any notion that the backstop could be changed: "the withdrawal agreement is not open for re-negotiation". You can read his full statement here.

EU leaders - including French President Emmanuel Macron, and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar - have similarly warned the UK government that the Brexit withdrawal agreement cannot be renegotiated. The remaining EU leaders continue to show unity and solidarity with one another.

The Aftermath: Pound Falls

As soon as the Cooper amendment (the strongest effort to delay Brexit) was rejected, the pound fell considerably against the US dollar. It dropped a cent to trade at just below $1.31. Although the Spelman amendment was passed, MPs rejected the Cooper amendment - an opportunity to have the power to formally stop a No Deal Brexit. This drop in the pound suggests investors think a No Deal scenario is now more likely.

Is this a sign of economic trouble to come, or is it just a temporary dip? We shall have to wait and see.

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