13 Mar 2019
To Brexit or not to Brexit: That is the Question!
The UK fell deeper into ‘outrageous fortune’ last night as Theresa May’s deal received another trouncing the House of Commons.
The British people have had enough. We’re backstopped up to the eyeballs with Brexit but even more, we tired of being a global laughing stock.
As Bloomberg’s live newsfeed of the vote was transmitting last night, thousands of comments from all around the world came pouring in, tinged with mockery and derision.
What a state we’re in and yet in just over two weeks’ time, the hammer is set to fall and unless the deadline is delayed – or cancelled altogether – we’re all set to remain in the dark as to the fortune of our country.
Calls for Business Leaders to Step into Negotiations
Among the interesting solutions to Brexit chaos suggested by pundits, getting professional negotiators into Brussels on behalf of the UK seems to most plausible. When you consider how businessman Trump has steamed into his role as President, whether you like him or not, he gets things done.
Perhaps the problem today is that running a country with policy is outmoded and that there should be a move to introduce a more corporate structure into Parliament. After all, as an economic entity, the UK should be driven towards growth by an experienced entrepreneur rather than an erudite politician.
However, that’s the stuff of fantasy and the reality is that we are lost in a quagmire of bureaucracy with no signs of anything being resolved. Meanwhile British businesses are feeling the pressure as sales drop ahead of the Brexit deadline and production lines start to stagnate in the absence of purchase orders.
What Could Happen Next?
In all honesty, it’s anyone’s guess but according to pundits, there are a few scenarios that may play out as follows:
- No deal at a later date
Delaying Brexit would not mean that leaving the EU without a deal was ruled out forever. If the UK and the EU cannot sign off a deal during any extension then this would still be the default outcome. So although a majority of MPs have indicated they are against no deal – something they could well repeat later today – they would need to do something else to prevent it from happening as a matter of course.
- Further vote on PM’s deal
Probably the simplest course of action during an extension would be for Theresa May to have another go at getting her deal through the House of Commons. Although by then it would have been rejected twice, there’s no rule to say that she couldn’t bring it back again. If she could win approval for the deal at a later date, the process would be basically the same as now. Legislation would be introduced to bring it into effect with a new Brexit date.
- Major renegotiation
The government could propose to negotiate a completely new Brexit deal. This wouldn’t be a question of carrying out minor tweaks and having a further vote. Instead, there could be a complete renegotiation that would take some time. The government could pivot towards one of the other models of deal that has been suggested – perhaps something close to the so-called “Norway model” which would involve a closer relationship with the EU than the current deal proposes. If the EU refused to re-enter negotiations, the government would have to plump for one of the other options instead.
- Another referendum
It could have the same status as the 2016 referendum, which was legally non-binding and advisory – in common with past UK referendums. But some MPs want to hold a binding referendum where the result would automatically take effect. Either way, a referendum can’t just happen automatically. The rules for referendums are set out in a law called the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000.
- Call a general election
Theresa May could decide the best way out of the deadlock would be to hold an early general election in order to get a political mandate for her deal. She doesn’t have the power just to call an election. But, as in 2017, she could ask MPs to vote for an early election under the terms of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act. Two-thirds of all MPs would need to support the move. The earliest date for the election would be 25 working days later but it could be after that – the prime minister would choose the precise date.
- Another no-confidence vote
Labour could table another motion of no confidence in the government at any time. Under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act 2011, UK general elections are only supposed to happen every five years. The next one is due in 2022. But a vote of no confidence lets MPs vote on whether they want the government to continue. The motion must be worded: “That this House has no confidence in Her Majesty’s Government.” If a majority of MPs vote for the motion then it starts a 14-day countdown.
If during that time the current government or any other alternative government cannot win a new vote of confidence, then an early general election would be called. That election cannot happen for at least 25 working days.
- No Brexit
The European Court of Justice has ruled that it would be legal for the UK to unilaterally revoke Article 50 to cancel Brexit (without the need for agreement from the other 27 EU countries). With the government still committed to Brexit, it’s very likely that a major event such as a further referendum or change of government would have to happen before such a move. However, any delay to Brexit would certainly lead to questions about whether the ultimate destination was going to be a reversal of the 2016 referendum.
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