Teaching Brexit; Fact vs Fear and a no-confidence vote

Theresa May’s deal is voted down in historic Commons defeat

Tuesday the 15th of January is a historical day in the UK history. Theresa May has sustained the heaviest parliamentary defeat of any British prime minister in the democratic era after MPs rejected her Brexit deal by a resounding majority of 230. First, read the facts about Brexit below, and then read what the historic vote on the 15th means for the unknown outcome.

Getting to know the facts:

What does Brexit mean?

It is a word that is used as a shorthand way of saying the UK leaving the EU – merging the words Britain and exit to get Brexit.

Why is Britain leaving the European Union?

A referendum – a vote in which everyone (or nearly everyone) of voting age can take part – was held on Thursday 23 June, 2016, to decide whether the UK should leave or remain in the European Union. Leave won by 51.9% to 48.1%. The referendum turnout was 71.8%, with more than 30 million people voting.

When is the UK due to leave the EU?

For the UK to leave the EU it had to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty which gives the two sides two years to agree the terms of the split. Theresa May triggered this process on 29 March, 2017, meaning the UK is scheduled to leave at 11pm UK time on Friday, 29 March 2019. A European court has ruled that the UK can decide to stop the process. Alternatively it can be extended if all 28 EU members agree, but at the moment all sides are focusing on that date as being the key one, and Theresa May has put it into British law. Source: BBC news.

What is the Brexit backstop?

Variously described as an insurance policy or safety net, the backstop is a device intended to ensure that there will not be a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, even if no formal deal can be reached on trade and security arrangements.

It would mean that if there were no workable agreement on such matters, Northern Ireland would stay in the customs union and much of the single market, guaranteeing a friction-free border with the Republic.

Both the UK and EU signed up to the basic idea in December 2017 as part of the initial Brexit deal, but there have been disagreements since on how it would work. Source: The Guardian

The vote:

What does this defeat mean for the government?

It means that Theresa May’s Brexit deal has not passed – and its record scale puts severe pressure on the prime minister. Immediately after she lost by 230 votes, Jeremy Corbyn tabled a no-confidence motion.

What is the procedure for a no-confidence vote?

Under parliamentary convention, if the official opposition tables a motion saying “That this house has no confidence in Her Majesty’s government”, the expectation is that ministers will allow time for it promptly.

When will the vote on the no-confidence motion be?

The leader of the Commons, Andrea Leadsom, has said that Wednesday’s debate will run from the end of prime minister’s questions at about 12.45pm until 7pm, when there will be a vote.

What happens if Labour wins?

There would not be an immediate election; instead, there would be a period of 14 calendar days in which the government can seek to regain the confidence of MPs, or else another government can be formed.

If this does not happen, then parliament will be dissolved, with the standard 25 working-day gap needed before the election is held.

Since the provision has not yet been used, it remains unclear how, if at all, this grace period could potentially be used to form a different government, for example a coalition or a minority Labour administration.

Will Labour win?

The signs point to no. However much many Conservative MPs dislike May’s Brexit plan they are not keen on an election. Just as crucially, May’s DUP coalition partners, who voted against the Brexit deal, immediately pledged they would back the PM.

What does May do if she holds on?

She begins to dance around some form of Plan B. May said she would immediately start talks with both Tories and people in other parties “in a constructive spirit” to seek a deal that could win the support of the Commons.

Whatever happens, she must present a “motion in neutral terms” presenting her proposed next steps to the Commons by Monday. This could be amended, meaning in theory backbenchers with their own ideas could try to seize control of the process.

The Brexit debate has become increasingly toxic in recent months.

Despite hopes that the referendum would settle the issue, the debate rages on. There’s been so much shrieking and deliberate truth-bending that sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s true and what’s not.

Thankfully Stephen Fry, the ever-reasonable bastion of knowledge, has come to lend a hand. Fry has made an incredible 11-minute video that separates facts from fear.

The video starts by comparing images from the UK press and Vote Leave campaign to Nazi propaganda, displaying the similar tactics that both groups have used. Source: :Indy100.

Lesson plan

  1. Watch the video below and read the articles in the links below too.
  2. Explain the title Facts vs Fear.
  3. In less than 50 words, try to explain Brexit. Write and post on your blog.
  4. The teacher has post-it notes with for or against Brexit, based on the note you get, prepare for the big television debate you have been invited to attend.
  5. The class divides in two, for or against Brexit. Prepare for the debate and choose 4 students to represent each side. The rest will work on finding facts.
  6. Make a quiz for your classmates with 10 questions about Brexit. Use Kahoot.



Teaching Brexit

How much do you remember about Brexit? 






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