Crucial day for Brexit: This is what’s happening

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It’s the day of reckoning in Westminster, as MPs prepare to vote on whether to accept or reject Theresa May’s Brexit deal.

In a day likely to be filled with political jargon, positioning and spin, Sky News takes you clearly through how the run-up to the “meaningful vote” will unfold.

First, it’s May’s sit-down with her cabinet from around 9am

Larry, the 10 Downing Street cat, sits on the cabinet table wearing a British Union Jack bow tie ahead of the Downing Street street party.
Image: Mrs May’s day starts with a meeting of senior ministers round the cabinet table

Well before MPs arrive in parliament, Mrs May will chair the weekly Tuesday meeting of her cabinet.

Here, all of her most senior ministers will assemble to discuss issues of the day.

Brexit – and particularly planning for a “no-deal” divorce from the EU – has featured heavily in recent weeks.

There is usually very little official readout from the meetings, but some ministers may begin leaking details, and the Downing Street press office may reveal some details at the twice-daily briefing for journalists.

Then, the Commons will sit at 11.30am

House of Commons. Pic: UK Parliament/Mark Duffy
Image: John Bercow will pick amendments for debate. Pic: UK Parliament/Mark Duffy

Trying to say with certainty when anything is happening in parliament is almost harder than negotiating the backstop.

But the Commons sits at 11.30am, with two orders of business due first – health questions, which should take around an hour, and a 10-minute rule bill motion – which takes 10 minutes.

Tuesday’s Brexit debate, then, should start around 12.45pm.

MPs who have still not had a chance to reveal how they plan to vote and give their reasons why will finally get that chance, with the debate due to wrap up at 7pm.

We will find out which amendments will be voted on between 10.30am and 11.30am

Speaker John Bercow speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons before the SNP's Westminster leader Ian Blackford was kicked out of Commons sittings for the rest of the day after repeatedly challenging him
Image: There is no limit on how many amendments could be considered

Before voting on the final deal, MPs will vote on a series of amendments to it.

At least 13 of these have been tabled – by MPs ranging from the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Labour Remain and Brexiteer backbenchers, government rebels and loyalists.

There is no limit on how many can be considered, with Speaker John Bercow granted the power to pick which ones MPs should debate.

That will be made public between 10.30am and 11.30am.

The meaningful vote – between 8pm and 9pm.

Image: Brexit is due to happen on 29 March by default

Exactly when the vote will be depends on how many amendments are voted on: six were expected to be picked for the scrapped vote in December.

Each one will take around 15 minutes, meaning the vote is expected to take place between 8pm and 9pm.

Is there any way the vote could be pulled?

Pro-Brexit demonstrators hold signs outside the Houses of Parliament
Image: Mrs May faces huge opposition from her own MPs – Brexiteers and Remainers

We are closer to the vote than last time, and Mrs May and multiple cabinet ministers have confirmed it will still go ahead.

But, one of the amendments by senior Labour MP Hilary Benn says both the deal and no-deal should be rejected.

If that is passed then it is hard to see the point in MPs voting on the full deal itself.

It could just die a death on the floor of the Commons.

If the vote does go ahead, how will it happen?

A minister has warned blocking Brexit will have consequences for British society
Image: MPs will walk through one of two lobbies to vote on the deal

MPs will rise from the green benches in the Commons chamber and exit into one of two corridors.

These are the “aye” and “no” lobbies.

MPs voting for the deal will file down the aye lobby, which runs behind the side of the house where members of the government sit.

MPs voting against the deal will head into the no lobby, which runs behind the opposition side.

They will all give their names to a clerk at the end of the corridor, and register their name with two “tellers” – nominated by the two sides to declare the result.

After 15 minutes, the voting lobby doors will be closed.

MPs will re-take their seats in the chamber, as the tellers line up in front of the Speaker to declare the result.

You can tell before they open their mouths which side has won, as the victors will be standing on the right.

Find out how each MP has declared they will vote here.

What happens if May wins?

Theresa May
Image: Theresa May will close the debate on Tuesday

If the prime minister has managed to convert the more than 100 Conservative MPs who are planning to vote down the deal, it will be written into law.

That means the UK will leave the EU on 29 March with an agreement.

What happens if she loses?

Pro-Europe speakers, politicians and celebrities pose on stage for a photograph at a rally for Best for Britain and People's Vote campaign in London on December 9, 2018, on the eve of the week in which Parliament votes on the Brexit deal. (Photo by Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP) (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Image: One amendment calls for another referendum on the Brexit deal

Under an amendment passed last week, if Mrs May loses she has just three sitting days of parliament to return and present her next steps – or plan B.

The government has announced MPs will not be sitting on Friday, so that makes the prime minister’s deadline the following Monday – 21 January.

Everything else is in the hands of the amendments being tabled tonight.

Some plans include a second referendum, re-negotiating a Canada-style deal with the EU, and setting an end date for the backstop.

Mr Corbyn could also use the defeat to strike and launch a vote of “no-confidence” in the government to force a general election.

More from Politics

Mrs May’s confidence and supply partners the DUP have said they will support her in such a vote, which if every Conservative MP does as well should keep her job safe.

:: Follow and watch the Brexit vote live with a special programme on Sky News from 6-10pm tonight

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