On 15 January 2019, Members of Parliament (MP) voted overwhelmingly against the UK Government’s proposed Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, resulting in a ‘historic loss’ for PM Theresa May. Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn immediately called for a vote of no confidence in the Government which took place on 16 January 2019. The Government won the vote, meaning that at this stage there will be no early general election.
Regarding the rejection of the Withdrawal Agreement, PM May has 3 days to present a plan on how the withdrawal should proceed. There are several options at the moment.
- The first one is ‘hard Brexit’, which means the UK will leave the EU on 29 March 2019 with no deal in place with the EU.
- Second, the UK government could propose to re-negotiate another agreement with the EU. At the moment, this scenario seems unlikely as EU27 persistently refuses to negotiate a new deal. If the EU nevertheless agrees, then Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) could possibly be extended, resulting in an additional 2-year period to negotiate a new deal.
- Third, the UK Government could hold a new referendum on the current Withdrawal Agreement; this scenario also seems unlikely, as the Government has said preparations for a new referendum could not be completed before the March 2019 exit date. Alternatively, PM May could call for an early general election in order to get a political mandate for her deal, but given the current lack of support for the deal and for her government in general this would be a risky strategy and therefore seems equally unlikely. If it were to occur, the UK could ask for an extension of the 2-year period according to Article 50 (3) TEU.
- Finally, it is worth mentioning that according to the European Court of Justice, the UK could unilaterally revoke its intention to withdraw. However, in the current climate, this scenario seems unlikely as well.
With only 70 days until the mandated exit date arrives, it is clear the UK’s Parliament has much work to do. PM May’s new Brexit plan must be published on 21 January and a full debate and key vote on that plan will take place on 29 January.
No Consensus on Direction
She is looking to hold talks with MPs of all parties, but Mr Corbyn has refused to participate unless PM May rules out leaving the EU with no deal. In response PM May explained it is not within the Government’s power to do so and the UK will leave the EU on 29 March unless Parliament either agrees to a deal with the EU or the UK revokes Article 50 and chooses to stay in the EU permanently, which she believes would be wrong. Discussions with other parties have already taken place, but there is currently no consensus on the direction that any new plan will take.