What happens now?
March 13, 2019

As expected, the Prime Minister lost last night’s vote in the House of Commons on the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement  by 149 votes.  The Prime Minister is ignoring calls for her resignation and there will be a vote today on a further motion in relation to no-deal.

In advance of today’s vote, the UK Government have also proposed to cut most tariffs to zero in event of no-deal Brexit removing tariffs on 87% of imports, excluding certain meat, dairy and other products (Click here.)

Today’s motion is not as clear as it could be:

That this House declines to approve leaving the European Union without a Withdrawal Agreement and a Framework for the Future Relationship on 29 March 2019; and notes that leaving without a deal remains the default in UK and EU law unless this House and the EU ratify an agreement.”

Unpacking this, the motion appears to say we do not want to leave without a deal but we will be leaving without a deal unless something else happens.

And that is the central question: “What will happen now?”  Clearly the EU27 will not agree to a different deal other than the one that has now been defeated twice by the UK Parliament (even the EU now talk of the original agreement as being ‘dead’).  That appears to leave only three options (whomever is Prime Minister), namely (1) leave without a deal, (2) agree the future arrangements between the UK and EU, or (3) call off Brexit entirely.  There are calls for a second referendum, but that would still lead to one of the three outcomes above in any event, just via a different path.

Given all of this, the best option may be to extend the deadline and work hard at agreeing the future relationship.  That has its own challenges, one of which is European elections that are about to be held in June that could mean the UK remains in the EU for the time being, but without any representation in the European Parliament.

Maybe the Brexit catchphrase should be “Expect the Unexpected”?

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