Brexit scenarios: How this week's crunch votes could play out
By John Goodrich
British MPs are due to cast critical votes at least once – and probably several times – on Brexit in the coming days.
With less than 500 hours before the country's scheduled exit from the European Union, Prime Minister Theresa May has promised a three-stage vote – though the government has pulled Brexit ballots before and could do so again.
Assuming the government sticks to the three-vote plan, this is how the week could play out.
Monday/Tuesday: Vote or no vote?
- May decides whether to press ahead with a "meaningful" vote.
- Another delay would provoke a furious reaction from MPs.
No meaningful vote: The government pulls the meaningful vote because no significant concessions have been gained from the EU. A non-binding motion is voted on instead, and May resumes talks with Brussels before trying to force through her deal at a later date. MPs react with fury at yet another delay, and probably renew attempts to take control of the Brexit process.
Meaningful vote: The government presses ahead with the promised three-stage plan starting with a vote on May's Brexit deal, which was defeated by 230 votes in January, on Tuesday. She will hope to have secured sufficient concessions on the Irish backstop to win over hardliners in the Conservative Party and its allies in the Democratic Unionist Party.
A meaningful vote leads to...
Tuesday: Yes or no?
- MPs vote again on the government's Brexit deal.
- May needs significant concessions from the EU to win.
Yes: May's deal is approved and Britain moves towards an orderly exit from the EU on March 29 (although, a small delay may be required to pass the necessary legislation). A transition period of at least 21 months will begin immediately after exit, and negotiations over the future relationship – widely expected to be more complicated than negotiations to-date – will get underway.
No: May's deal is rejected for a second time. The size of the defeat matters: A loss of 50 or less keeps the possibility of another vote on the deal alive; another comprehensive defeat kills the deal and puts May's position in serious jeopardy. She could at this point promise to ask the EU to delay Brexit, but assuming the government sticks to its three-stage vote promise a no-deal vote will take place on Wednesday.
A rejection of May's deal leads to...
Wednesday: No-deal or no no-deal?
- MPs vote on leaving the EU without a deal.
- If the government takes a position, resignations likely.
No-deal: Britain leaves the EU without a deal on March 29. Emergency preparations go into overdrive in Britain and the EU, and the two sides try to strike quick agreements on issues like air safety and visas. The UK begins trading on World Trade Organization rules, financial markets likely plummet, the British currency falls, food shortages are expected, and customs checks may restart on the Irish border.
No no-deal: Leaving the EU without a deal on March 29 is rejected. The vote doesn't definitively rule out a no-deal Brexit, because if no alternative is found before the scheduled exit date on March 29 a no-deal remains the default option. It also doesn't rule out a "managed" no-deal after a short delay to Brexit.
A rejection of no-deal leads to...
Thursday: Delay or no delay?
- MPs vote on extending Article 50.
- Any delay would have to be sanctioned by the EU.
Delay: May would be expected to ask the EU for an extension to Article 50 at the European Council summit on March 21-22. All 27 members must agree. A delay of up to three months would likely be requested, but not necessarily granted – especially if the existing deal is crushed. In that scenario the EU may decide a longer delay is required to come up with a new plan. That would put May in a difficult position, and another vote in parliament could follow.
No delay: MPs vote against May's deal, against no-deal, and against a delay. It is unclear what would happen next, but most likely a third attempt would be made to force through the prime minister's agreement – and with a no-deal exit just days away, it would stand a chance.