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Call to change Westminster voting system to find Brexit solution

16 Jan 2019 3 minute read
Westminster Parliament. Picture: Ged Carroll (CC BY 2.0)

An MP has called for the voting system at Westminster’s House of Commons to be changed so that a solution to Brexit can be found.

After consulting with Parliamentary Clerks, Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards has put forward the idea of using the Alternative Vote (AV) voting method to decide the next steps on Brexit in the House of Commons.

The AV method would require MPs to rank options in an order of preference, with votes transferred from the option that gains the lowest level of support to the next most preferred option listed, until one option gains a majority.

A version of this voting system is used for the election of Deputy Speakers and Select Committee Chairs.

The voting procedure could be used to discover what kind of Brexit has the support of the majority of MPs, he said.

“As we saw last night, there is no majority support for the British Government’s chosen Brexit policy. This is despite the reckless manner in which the Prime Minister has run down the clock,” he said.

“There is also no majority in the House of Commons for an irresponsible no deal Brexit.

“Despite the Prime Minister portraying the decision before Members of Parliament as a binary choice between her deal and no deal, the truth is, there are many more options on offer, which command much more support amongst MPs.

“But amongst these many options, it appears no outright majority is forthcoming.

“To avoid no deal by default, I believe we will need to be a little more creative. It seems to me that at this point of high crisis a potential safety net could be deployed by using a voting system designed to ensure a majority conclusion.”

‘No deal’

Another possible model explored is the Weakest Link procedure: a multi-stage process, in which the least popular proposal is eliminated at the end of every round.

Voting continues until only one option is left. This voting procedure is used in Conservative Party leadership elections.

Options that could be voted on under both systems could include a People’s Vote, a ‘Norway plus’, the Prime Minister’s deal or even no deal.

A voting procedure such as the two suggested, would also remove the chances of a ‘no deal’ by default, as the House of Commons would be forced into making a decision on the next steps before the March 29th deadline., Jonathan Edwards said.

In a point of order after the loss of the Meaningful Vote, the Prime Minister claimed “it is clear that the House does not support this deal, but tonight’s vote tells us nothing about what it does support”.

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has also called for the “UK to clarify its intentions”.

Commenting on the proposals, Mr Edwards reaffirmed that Plaid Cymru’s preference is for a People’s Vote.

“My party would always have a preference for a People’s Vote,” he said. “And I believe with this method of voting, it would be the most preferred option of Members of Parliament across the House of Commons.

“The House of Commons has effectively taken control of Brexit policy and has defeated the British Government’s deeply deficient deal. Now we must ensure that we can find a way of coming to a conclusive decision which stops a disastrous no deal by default.”

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