UK Parliament rejects no-deal Brexit

The U.K. is on course to delay Brexit and open the door to a radical re-write of the terms of its divorce from the European Union, after recoiling from an economically disastrous no-deal split. 

Background 

On June 23rd, 2016, Britain narrowly voted to leave the European Union, stunning Europe and the world. The EU employs a set of policies for its 28-member states that aim to ensure the free movement of people, goods and trade among other services. Britain is deeply intertwined with the workings of the EU especially with regard to trade.

PM Theresa May’s leadership in the negotiations has been heavily criticised. She has been unable to form a consensus within the Parliament, or even her own party, for the course of Brexit. Her “directionless” leadership has not convinced most of her peers in Westminster and she was challenged by a no-confidence motion in early December 2018, which she narrowly won.

Despite her best efforts, the British parliament is not accepting the proposed Brexit agreement. Irrespective of whether they arrive at a deal or not, the UK is officially set to leave on March 29, 2019.

Analysis 

With the country in limbo and politicians deadlocked, Wednesday was another chaotic day in London, that clarified what it is that most parliamentarians ‘don’t’ want, but so far nothing has come up to suggest what kind of Brexit a majority might support.

The British pound climbed to its highest since June 2018, after Parliament rejected leaving the EU when no agreements were in place to keep trade flowing, after 46 years of being a part of it. Legislators will now vote on a postponement to the current March 29 deadline. The EU has suggested it’s open to a delay until late May, although officials say they will need Britain to give a clear reason for pushing back the deadline.

This leaves Prime Minister Theresa May still fighting for her Brexit deal, with a third attempt to get it through Parliament likely to happen next week. That’s even after she suffered a major rebellion from her Conservative Party that included members of her own cabinet, lost two big votes, saw a minister resign, and ended up warning that Brexit could be delayed for many months.

Struggling to keep her voice because of an illness, May pulled out of the debate. When she did speak -after the House of Commons eventually voted 321 to 278 to reject leaving the EU with no deal - she wasn’t happy, saying “The House needs to face up to the consequences of the decisions it has taken.”

It is almost three years since Britain voted to cancel its membership of the EU and with a little over two weeks to go until exit day, May has failed to get an agreement that can get through Parliament. The prime minister’s preferred deal, which took two years to negotiate, was resoundingly rejected by the Commons for the second time in a vote. Now, members have decided to avoid leaving the bloc without a deal.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond broke ranks on Thursday to suggest a series of Parliamentary votes on the potential Plan B options. “We now have to find a way forward,” he said in an interview with Sky News. “I am very happy with the prime minister’s deal but I think we also have to explore other options for Parliament to express a view about how we resolve this impasse.”

May’s office has said there are no plans for so-called “indicative votes” in the Commons to test support for different ideas, that potentially include keeping Britain inside the EU customs union, the single market, or even a second referendum. May is trying to bring her own deal back from the dead but hasn’t ruled out allowing members of Parliament to choose from a menu of other options.

Assessment 

Our assessment is that the decision to extend the Article 50 deadline beyond March 29 is inevitable and the UK Parliament will seriously consider it. We also feel that Theresa May, although safe from a leadership challenge for another year, may not necessarily be the PM much longer as Labour has made a vocal demand for another General election. 

 

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Image Courtesy: Mdbeckwith (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:UK_Parliament_HDR.jpg), „UK Parliament HDR“, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/legalcode