Welcome to the late late show! Coming from the Black Hole which is Brexit and the British Parliament.
Prime Minister Theresa May has agreed a Brexit deal with the EU – but parliament hasn’t. So, on December 11th, after five days of debate, it decides. If a majority backs the deal – we know where we are. But Mrs May needs 320 votes, there are dozens of rebels in her own party, and most analysts say – she’s way off. So… let’s look at (some of) the No vote scenarios.
A – The UK leaves the EU at 23.00 UK time on March 29th 2019 without another vote, and without a deal – Hard Brexit. Maybe.
Given that this prospect frightens many MPs, and probably Mrs May, a second scenario quickly comes to the fore assuming Mrs May has not resigned following a massive defeat of about 200 votes.
B – After the vote, the government has 3 weeks to make a statement on “how it proposes to proceed.” It seems quite possible that the proposal might be to call a second vote. It then has another 7 days to move a motion in the Commons, allowing MPs to express their views on the government’s proposals. If the full time allowed was taken this would mean a second vote might come in the first half of January but given the urgency of the debate, and the unwanted uncertainty, it would probably be much earlier. This scenario is based on the government’s proposal being to have a second vote. However, if the ‘proposal to proceed’ had proposed a hard Brexit and no 2nd vote, then MPs could still air their views, but the government would not be bound by them.
In the run-up to the 2nd vote, Brussels could tweak a few lines in the agreement to help it get through. Also, if, after the No vote, the markets were in turmoil, that might persuade a few MPs to switch their vote. Possible.
C – But, if despite the tweak, and the turmoil, Mrs May loses the 2nd vote. At this point, we head towards – a Second Referendum. Doubtful – unless Mrs May has resigned and the opposition Labour Party throws its weight behind the idea.
Mrs May is dead set against it, and she’s still Prime Minister. Even if she was deposed by rivals such as Boris Johnson or Michael Gove, well, they’re still Brexiteers although of course in the past they have been known to change their minds on matters of grave importance to themselves, sorry, to the nation. Anyway, a second referendum would require a constitutional change, and there is supposed to be a 6-month delay between legislation and a referendum. Even if the 6 months could be shortened, that would still mean a delayed Brexit and that would require all 28 EU states (yes, it’s still 28) to agree because the Article 50 clock, which set the deadline to leave in March, is ticking. Despite this, a 2nd referendum cannot be ruled out, nor can an agreement to delay leaving while this mess is sorted out.
So –D? A general election? Also – doubtful. This is something the opposition Labour party wants. The rules surrounding ending a Parliamentary term early are complicated, but the bottom line is it would require a majority in the House of Commons to support it and the ruling Conservative party is unlikely to give up power as it has another 3 and half years in office. There is speculation that Mrs May, after losing the vote in parliament will gamble that the UK electorate, fearful of a hard Brexit will return her to power with more seats at which point she could win parliamentary support for her deal. That’s quite a gamble, especially given the shock she received last year when calling a snap election.
There is E – none of the above. There’s F, G, and H, all the way down to N for Norway +, No-one Knows! Nooooooooooooo, and Noddy Goes To Toytown. There’s no precedent for this in modern British politics, and the UK doesn’t have a written constitution.
Light can’t escape a black hole – it will be several weeks before clarity escapes from Parliament.