Tuesday 17 September 2019

Explainer: What happens if the Brexit deal is rejected by Parliament?

Facing facts: A man wears face paint in a European Union (EU) flag design ahead of the anti-Brexit People’s Vote march, in London last month. Photo: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg
Facing facts: A man wears face paint in a European Union (EU) flag design ahead of the anti-Brexit People’s Vote march, in London last month. Photo: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Georgina Stubbs

Theresa May headed back to her constituency on Friday having survived - so far - one of the most intense weeks of her increasingly bruising premiership as her party fought itself over Brexit.

Four ministers and a smattering of others resigned after she unveiled her poorly-received Brexit deal and an increasing number of MPs said they had submitted letters of no confidence in her leadership of the Conservatives.

Question marks now remain over whether she has the numbers to get the deal she agreed with Brussels approved by Parliament, amid dwindling support and a potential serious challenge to her position.

What happens if her draft Brexit agreement is voted against and rejected?

- Possible Brexit outcomes

There are a number of possible outcomes if MPs reject the draft deal during the meaningful vote, which is expected to be staged in the House of Commons in early December.

Initially, if the deal is voted down, Mrs May has just a matter of weeks to put forward a new plan.

But with Parliamentary recess marked for between December 20 and January 7 - time would be tight and may result in the early recall of the Government from the Christmas break.

Britain and the EU could also go back to the negotiating table in Brussels, but would find themselves restricted by the looming March 29 withdrawal date, and senior EU figures have already suggested this is the final offer.

This could see Mrs May submit a request to the European Council to seek an extension of Article 50 which would delay departure if agreed by the other member states.

A no-deal Brexit is also a possibility as a result of Parliament voting the deal down - and would see the UK leave the trading bloc without an agreed blueprint on its future relationship with the EU.

This is opposed by a wide swathe of the business community who say it would be catastrophic for the economy and jobs.

Despite Brexit being just months away, a second referendum on Britain's EU membership could also be a potential outcome if Mrs May felt this might ease the political deadlock.

Like a no-deal Brexit, she has used a second vote backing remaining in the EU as a weapon to try to gain support for her plan from reluctant MPs.

And there is also a chance a General Election could be called. This can be done in two ways. Under the Fixed Term Parliament Act, two-thirds of MPs have to back a motion calling for an election.

Or the Government can lose a confidence vote and 14 days pass without an administration, either the incumbent or a new one, winning a fresh vote.

However both would require a phalanx of Tory rebels to side with Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party, which makes it very much the "nuclear option".

- The Conservative Party

Mrs May has committed to seeing her Brexit deal through to the end, but assuming she stays in post long enough to put her divisive draft through the Commons and it is voted down, it is possible she could resign.

It is standard procedure for the Prime Minister to become a caretaker in such instances until the Conservative Party selects a replacement.

And if Mrs May wants to make a quick exit, she would then be replaced by the second in line, David Lidington - the Cabinet Office Minister and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

But the Prime Minister may not even have to resign, and could face a leadership challenge - a step which may garner greater support in light of her deal being rejected by Parliament.

However, a challenge is risky, as if she wins her opponents have to wait a year before they can challenge her again, which would mean she would remain in charge during Brexit.

PA Media

Also in Business