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The UK’s most Googled Brexit questions answered ahead of crucial vote

Pro Brexit supporters outside the Houses of Parliament, London, ahead of the House of Commons vote on the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal. Credit: PA

As Theresa May's Withdrawal Agreement hangs in the balance, with MPs debating ahead of a vote in Parliament, the British public has been looking for Brexit answers online.

Here are the most-Googled questions ahead of Tuesday evening's crucial vote.

1. What time is the Brexit vote?

Theresa May will wrap up five days of debate on her Withdrawal Agreement in the House of Commons with a concluding statement at the Despatch Box at around 6.30pm.

Voting is likely to begin at 7pm, starting with four amendments and culminating in the meaningful vote itself.

The process of voting on each amendment takes around 15 minutes, so the final result is expected around 8.15-8.30pm.

2. What is the backstop?

The Irish border with Northern Ireland. Credit: Brian Lawless/PA

The backstop arrangement outlined in the Prime Minister’s deal would create a single EU-UK customs area to ensure there is no hard border on the island of Ireland.

This means the UK would continue to follow the EU’s tariffs and rules on customs, avoiding the need for checks between the EU and UK – including Northern Ireland and the Republic – until a new relationship is decided.

Northern Ireland would need to follow some of the EU’s single market rules, including laws on goods, agricultural production, veterinary controls and state aid rules.

It is this point that has led many – including Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party and a number of Conservative backbenchers – to oppose the deal.

3. What are the Brexit amendments?

MPs proposed 13 amendments to the Prime Minister’s deal over the course of the debate and Speaker John Bercow revealed four will be put to the vote on Tuesday evening.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s amendment, backed by his front bench, dismisses Mrs May’s deal outright, instead calling on the Government to “pursue every option” to stop the UK leaving the EU without a deal. The Lib Dems added their own amendment to Mr Corbyn’s proposal, naming a second referendum as one of the options, but this was not selected for debate by the Speaker.

Jeremy Corbyn has said he will table a vote of no confidence should the Prime Minister's deal not succeed. Credit: PA

An amendment from the SNP leader in the Commons, Ian Blackford, calls on the UK Government to “respect the will” of the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly by scrapping the Brexit deal as it is “damaging for Scotland, Wales and the nations and regions of the UK as a whole”. Instead it demands an extension to Article 50 to give the UK more time to agree a course of action.

Senior Tory Brexiter Sir Edward Leigh’s amendment says the Government should tear up the Withdrawal Agreement if the EU does not agree to end the backstop by the end of 2021.

The final amendment, tabled by Conservative Leaver John Baron, will only be debated if the Leigh proposals fail. It seeks to give the UK power to terminate the backstop without permission from the EU.

4. What is Theresa May’s Brexit deal?

The 585-page Withdrawal Agreement text will provide the basis of a legally binding treaty. It covers the future rights of EU citizens living in the UK and UK nationals in the EU, the £39 billion the UK owes in promised contributions, and protocols on Gibraltar and UK sovereign base areas in Cyprus.

It also provides for a transition period after the UK leaves the EU in March, running to the end of 2020, with the option of a one-off extension if more time is needed to conclude an agreement on the future relationship.

Crucially it also covers the backstop, intended to ensure there is no return to the hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic if negotiations on the future relationship have not been completed.

5. How will my MP vote on the Brexit deal?

Many of Labour's front bench are expected to vote down the PM's deal. Credit: PA

Every MP from the SNP, Lib Dems, DUP, Plaid Cymru and Green Party is expected to vote against the deal, as well as most Labour MPs. Labour members who have indicated they will vote with the Government include Kevin Barron, Jim Fitzpatrick and John Mann.

Former Labour minister Frank Field and ex-Lib Dem MP Stephen Lloyd, both sitting as independents, have said they will back the deal.

At least 81 Conservative MPs have recently said publicly that they plan to vote against the deal and some estimates put total rebel numbers as high as 113, pushing the total potential vote against the deal beyond the 400 mark.

With 650 MPs in the Commons – of whom the Speaker, his deputies and the seven Sinn Fein MPs do not cast a vote – this puts Mrs May’s possible tally at around 240-250, low enough to break historic records for the worst Government defeat of modern times.

The PM and her whips have been working through the day to bring that number down and it is always possible that critics of the deal will have a last-minute change of mind.

6. What is happening with Brexit?

The area outside Parliament has been awash with Brexit protesters. Credit: Victoria Jones/PA

After more than a year of negotiations, Mrs May presented her EU Withdrawal Bill to Parliament in November but it was immediately dismissed by hard Brexiteers within her own party, leading to a string of Cabinet resignations.

Hours before Parliament was due to vote on the deal in December, sensing a heavy defeat, the PM delayed the vote and returned to Brussels to seek reassurances about its implications.

After surviving a vote of no-confidence from her own party, Mrs May pushed the vote back to January 15 but she is still expected to lose heavily.

7. How many days until Brexit?

Credit: PA Graphics

As of Tuesday January 15, there are 73 days to go until Britain is due to leave the EU, on March 29.

8. Is the UK stockpiling food for Brexit?

Some businesses and families have said they are stockpiling food as a precaution for a no-deal scenario in which it takes a lot longer for cargo to come through customs at the UK border.

Tesco and Marks & Spencer, as well as companies like Premier Foods – which owns Bisto, Mr Kipling and Majestic Wine – have announced plans for stockpiling.

Lorries arrive at the Port of Dover in Kent. Credit: Gareth Fuller/PA

Quick-thinking entrepreneurs are selling so-called Brexit survival kits of freeze-dried food for hundreds of pounds, although a Government spokesman said there was “no need” to stockpile items in the box, according to the BBC.

In December, official documents showed the Government was drawing up plans to avoid food shortages in hospitals, although the full extent of Government plans are not known.

9. How many people voted for Brexit?

Credit: PA Graphics

A little over 17.4 million people voted to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum, compared with just over 16.1 million who voted to remain.

Turnout was 33.6 million, meaning 52% of those taking part voted to leave.

10. What happens if there is a no-deal Brexit?

A no-deal situation arises if the UK quits the EU without an agreement covering issues like the Irish border, expats’ rights in Europe, a future trade deal or customs and border checks.

Predictions about the seriousness of leaving the EU without a deal vary, but separate assessments from Whitehall and the Bank of England in November painted a grim picture of the impact of a no-deal Brexit on the UK economy.

The Bank warned Britain could be tipped into a recession worse than the financial crash, with an 8% cut in GDP, unemployment surging by as much as 7.5% and house prices falling by almost a third.

A cross-Government analysis found the UK economy would be 9.3% smaller after 15 years if Britain leaves without a deal.