The Prime Minister of United Kingdom (U.K.) – Theresa May’s has faced another defeat in the Parliament as her Brexit deal has been voted down by 391 MPs against 242 who supported it.
The MPs voted against May out of concerns over the backstop protocol of the withdrawal agreement, an insurance policy for keeping an open border in the island of Ireland. The MP’s argued that the backstop could trap the U.K. within the European Union’s (EU’s) trade rules and will create a divide between Northern Ireland and the rest of the country.
The EU’s Chief Negotiator for the Brexit deal – Michel Barnier has said that it has made the risk of a disorderly Brexit even higher. He said that the EU cannot go any further in trying to convince the MPs to back Theresa May. He even questioned the purpose of extending the Brexit discussions beyond March 29, 2019, when MPs will vote at 19:00 hrs. GMT on whether to block the U.K. from leaving the EU without an agreement.
Delaying Brexit appears to be the most likely option now. The MPs will be casting 2 more votes this week. The first will be to rule-out a no Brexit deal on March 29, 2019 and the second would be to delay Brexit by using Article 50 of the EU Treaty.
Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) states that any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.
However, British Prime Minister can herself place a request for applying Article 50. This would fetch her more time to try and earn some concessions from the EU and hold a 3rd vote on her deal.
Besides, Article 50 is not unilateral. It requires confirmation of all the other 27 EU Member States. The final decision on delay will be made on EU Council’s next meeting on March 21-22, 2019.
The leader of the Opposition Labour Party – Jeremy Corbyn had announced 2 weeks ago that his party will support a 2nd referendum. The 2nd referendum would have to be approved by Parliament. At this moment, it is unclear if there is enough majority for referendum.
Jeremy Corbyn has also called for a General Election after the deal got defeated again on Tuesday, March 13, 2019. However, he also said that the Labour Party is ready to work together with Government in reaching a consensus over the deal.
In such a case, Theresa May will find it really difficult to keep her party together.
The pre-conditions of a General Election will arise if the Government finds itself being obliged by the House of Commons to pursue a policy direction that the [Conservative] Party can no longer cohere around.
The case of no Brexit deal
In order to protect the interest of businesses and economy, the Government has set out more details, in the event U.K. leaves EU without an agreement.
Under a temporary scheme, 87% of imports by value would be eligible for zero-tariff access. Tariffs would be maintained to protect some industries, including agriculture. The Government will not introduce any new check or control or ask for customs declarations for any goods moving from across the border from Ireland to Northern Ireland.