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Since the UK’s vote to withdraw from the European Union in 2016, confusion has been spreading in every direction. With the March 29th deadline fast approaching MPs continue their feverish debates leaving us all with little-to-no clarity.
Below we offer an outline of events expected in the coming months, with the caveat that this too can change.
Early February – Return to Brussels
Following the setback Theresa May was dealt last month, when her hard-fought EU deal was overwhelmingly e House of Commons, she will now head back to Brussels to attempt a renegotiation on the current deal. One of the most sought-after alterations is to the backstop which aims to prevent a hard border. 317 MPs have now asked for the negotiated deal to be reopened to look at ‘alternative’ arrangements.
February 13th & 14th – Update to Commons and MPs have their say
Mrs May will attempt to bring a revised deal back to Commons as soon as possible. In any case, even making no progress at all, she must make a statement to MPs on the 13th of February.
Following this, MPs will be given another chance to vote on her Brexit plan. Parliament can also revisit ‘whatever can be tabled’ in the way of amendments to the previously agreed deal with the EU i.e. the one that failed to gain a majority in the UK Parliament.
This procedure, potentially, opens the way for different outcomes such as a vote to keep the UK in a customs union with the EU, a second referendum or an extension to Article 50.
Mid February – Second meaningful vote
If Mrs May were to obtain a second, agreed upon, deal with Brussels – and even if not – she will still have to gain a majority vote within the House of Commons. If she fails, this process would repeat itself for a possible third or fourth time.
February-March – Deal passed into UK law?
If a majority vote is achieved in the Commons on the Brexit treaty, the government will establish a novel piece of legislation, the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill. This will cover vital issues such as financial settlements, citizens’ rights and the process of transition.
Until March 29th, 2019 – EU ratification
Whilst the focus appears to be on the UK, it is vital to remember that before any new Brexit deal can take effect it must be approved by the European Parliament in a plenary vote. If not, the UK leaves with no deal.
March 29th, 2019 – Brexit day
The outline planned schedule of events presupposes an orderly progression. Given what we have witnessed in recent months and weeks, this seems unlikely. The record of Brexit deliberations and negotiations has been anything but straightforward, and European negotiations are notorious for being concluded at the eleventh hour. Brexit is likely to be no exception.
An extension of the talks may be permitted, perhaps until the end of the year. However, European elections are coming up and the focus of EU leaders will switch from Brexit to more domestic concerns. This will encourage the EU to get on with matters with a greater sense of urgency. Perhaps this is what irks EU leaders most as it demands more of their time.
What is almost certain is the electorate will face many twists and turns before March 29th. We wish we could say it would be concluded soon.