On Sunday, November 25, leaders of the remaining 27 EU member states will vote on the Brexit deal drafted up by UK and EU chief negotiators. Theresa May insists a deal is “within our grasp.” But if the deal is passed by the EU27 this weekend, Mrs May will face her greatest challenge yet: passing it through parliament at home.
The UK is due to leave the EU on March 29, 2019, the date marking two years since Theresa May triggered Article 50 to begin the divorce process.
Ideally, Mrs May is hoping the deal will pass without issue this weekend (which is looking a bit rocky with the current Gibraltar furore) and then head to the House of Commons in December.
If MPs pass the draft, that is meant to allow enough time for the deal to be ratified (written into law) before the March deadline.
READ MORE: What does Theresa May’s Brexit draft say? The key points
Brexit deal: Theresa May insists a deal is “within our grasp.”
Then the transition period kicks in.
This is a commonly misunderstood aspect of the withdrawal process: the March 29 cutoff doesn’t mean Brexit is beginning, it just means the transition process for further negotiations begins.
Express.co.uk spoke to Professor Alex De Ruyter, Director of Birmingham City University’s Centre for Brexit Studies.
He said: “All the transition period is is just resetting the clock.”
READ MORE: What does the Brexit political declaration say? Is it different from the withdrawal deal?
Brexit deal: On Sunday, leaders of the remaining 27 EU member states will vote on the deal
Mrs May, due to public and political pressure to begin the Brexit process, triggered Article 50, putting the process in motion.
And her first order of business was ensuring a transition period was negotiated, so the actual details of a future relationship and trade agreements had more time to be fleshed out into law.
So if the draft is passed by the EU27 and UK parliament, the transition process will begin and things will quiet down again as those in government continue trying to hammer out whatever the future of the two parties will actually look like.
“Don’t assume that getting a transition period means we won’t be facing these issues of market access again in two years,” warned Professor De Ruyter.
Brexit deal: “There is a distinct possibility of no-deal.”
Ok, so if the deal is passed, we can expect much of the same. But what if it isn’t?
If the deal is rejected, there are four possible courses of action:
1) LEAVE WITH NO DEAL
“There is a distinct possibility of no-deal,” Professor De Ruyter said, not necessarily by intent but due to the sheer political upheaval which still needs to take place before a deal can be ratified.
This would mean an immediate Brexit: no transition period, no take agreements, no certainty on immigrant status, etc.
It would also mean no transition period, so a lot of uncertainty would follow after the March deadline.
You can read more about what a no-deal Brexit could look like here: NO-DEAL BREXIT EXPLAINED
2) GENERAL ELECTION
Holding another general election isn’t really a solution to a no vote, but it might be an inevitability.
“If it is voted down, is that a vote of no-confidence in May?” Professor De Ruyter asked.
“It could well be. And that could lead to a vote of no confidence in the House.”
The worry here is, as we saw in the last general election where the Tories lost their overall majority, that another election could further split an already divided parliament.
Brexit deal: The UK is due to leave the EU on March 29, 2019
3) ANOTHER PUBLIC REFERENDUM
If, hypothetically, the public now voted to remain in the EU, the UK would need to begin the process of rescinding Article 50 and trying to mend bridges.
This is not the most likely outcome of the House of Commons vetoing the bill, however, it’s not technically out of the question.
Professor De Ruyter said: “The EU-UK relationship would never be what it was…the UK would be seen as a difficult member.”
4) BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARDS
In what is assumed a more likely outcome, the UK might try to renegotiate with the EU, which means seeking an extension to Article 50.
“Parliament would want them to be forced to go back and keep negotiating,” Professor De Ruyter said.
“The EU would probably say yes to an extension of Article 50…I don’t see any appetite for a no-deal from the other EU27.”
You can read more about what all these potential outcomes could mean for the country here.