Brexit: What’s next?

Brexit: What’s next?

As the UK limps into the final days of Brexit negotiation ahead of the original March 29th deadline, a lot still remains uncertain. From renegotiations, failed deals, and a potential leadership coup, the UK has seen it all. With the exit deadline growing increasingly urgent, May continues her scramble to produce a united front that will move negotiation forward, as she returns to parliament today in an effort to gain support for her latest deal. With so much happening at Whitehall this week, we examine some of the potential avenues leading to Brexit.

Returning Brexit to Parliament:

On the 18th March, Speaker John Bercow declared there could be no ne-runs of previous votes on a Brexit deal; either there must be a new deal (or changes to the existing deal) or MPs must answer different questions. In light of the delay to Article 50 however, John Bercow may be forced to reconsider this ruling, and readmit the deal for discussion. However, MPs could vote to suspend this regulation, in order to facilitate another ‘meaningful vote’ on Brexit and the deal put forward by Mrs May. The debate will happen today at approximately 4.30pm.

It now seems likely that if we are to depart the European Union, with a deal, that this will likely happen on 22nd May almost two months after the original deadline. In order for this to happen however, May must persuade the minds of 75 more MPs in order to win the consensus of parliament, and move negotiations forward. However, it was hinted by the PM that she may withhold voting on the deal if it became clear that it would not be passed by the lower chamber. Of itself, this decision is not without its complexities, if Mrs May is unable to or does not attempt to rouse support from the majority of MPs, Britain will have until April 12 to offer a new plan or decide to leave the European Union without an agreement.

Re-running the referendum:

This weekend, an estimated 1 million took to the streets to protest Brexit, demanding that MPs return the power to the people and undertake a People’s Vote, and trigger a second referendum to right the wrongs of the first. The Guardian reported: “the Put it to the People protest was one of the biggest demonstrations in recent British history. Members of the People’s Vote campaign group, which coordinated it, have expressed confidence that it will prove to have not been in vain.” The weight of this protest will surely be felt by MPs who are returning to Westminster this week to undertake in crucial voting ahead of Brexit. Further, the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon added that a second referendum is the only way to end the stalemate in parliament. Perhaps the people will have their will, after all…

Leadership Coup:

Although Environment Secretary Michael Gove told reporters that it was "not the time to change the captain of the ship" the rumour mill at No. 10 soon churned into action. Members of parliament are already speculating over whether Mrs May could legitimately remain as Leader if her deal is voted down in the commons this week—as pundits are saying is likely.

Speculation is rampant within the cabinet too, as one insider reveals that “if she loses the vote next week, I can’t see how she could carry on.” According to the BBC: “the Brexit secretary said an election will become more likely if MPs vote this week for a Brexit option the government does not want.”

Whilst Mrs May isn’t one to let things slip to the media, it seems there is some manoeuvring afoot. Although few MPs are going so far as to speak openly of a general election, there is suggestion that Tory MPs may be in the mood to back Mrs May’s deal on the specific proviso that she will not be leading in the next stage of negotiations once a deal has been made, and that she will leave office.

So far, it seems two candidates have been identified to take up the mantel of leader: Mr Lidington, known remainer, and Brexiteer Michael Gove. Undoubtedly, the differences in viewpoint between the two contenders will presents their own specific challenges towards precuring a successful exit. Only time will tell what’s next for the leadership… though it appears the sun is setting on Mrs May’s term as leader.   

With the road to Brexit looking rockier than ever, leading EU academic and Oxford University Lecturer Professor Catharine Barnard, sums up the situation: describing Brexit as “Complex, Vertiginous, Divisive.” And with more to come following this afternoon’s debates, it seems a resolution to the Brexit problem is as remote as ever.

Watch the debates live here.

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About the author:
Catherine is one of the Future of Law's digital editors. She graduated from Durham University with a degree in English Literature and worked at a barristers chambers before joining Lexis Nexis.