As MPs headed back after the holidays, there have been furious protests outside the Houses of Parliament from both pro and anti-Brexit groups. The Met has announced “enhanced” policing to be enforced ahead of the Brexit deadline, after protesters shouted slurs of “fascist” and “Nazi” at MPs and journalists, prompting the Commons speaker to write to the police force appealing for help. Public outrage is ramping up as the Brexit deadline is rapidly approaching: The UK is currently set to leave the EU on March 29 at 11pm.
Up next on the Brexit agenda, MPs will resume the debate on Theresa May’s draft Brexit deal which was cut short in December.
The debate precedes MPs’ chance to vote on the deal – the vote was due to take place in December, but was postponed by the government when defeat became inevitable.
Now, the Prime Minister has insisted the vote will go ahead on Tuesday, January 15, and not be delayed again.
READ MORE: What exactly does Theresa May’s Brexit deal say? The key points explained
WILL THE DEAL BE ACCEPTED?
At the moment, hopes aren’t particularly high of MPs approving Theresa May’s hard-won Brexit deal, despite her assurances that this is the best the EU will offer.
The main sticking point is the so-called Brexit backstop – the backup plan to avoid a hard border in Ireland – and whether the UK will be able to call it off unilaterally.
On Tuesday, a spokesman for the Prime Minister said fresh assurances were being sought from the EU to ensure the UK would not become trapped in a sort of customs arrangement.
He said: “In terms of the assurances that we are seeking from the EU, that work is ongoing.”
But what these assurances might be has not been revealed, and it’s hard to see what could be done at this stage to assuage MPs concerns.
WHAT COULD HAPPEN?
What happens next is dependent on the vote on January 15, and whether it passes or not.
If it passes, this will allow the Brexit draft to be introduced as the EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill and go through the usual procedures to be written into law.
Then the UK will officially leave the EU on March 29, initiating a two-year transition period during which further negotiations would take place.
But what if, as is looking likely, the deal is rejected?
WHAT IF THE DEAL IS REJECTED?
The truth is that no one really knows what would happen – Theresa May herself called it “unchartered territory”.
We do know that, in the event of a rejection, the Government has 21 days to set out a plan of action.
There are, broadly, five things which could happen:
Mrs May would have to get an extension on Article 50 and try to get some solid amendments on the deal to bring it back to Parliament for a second vote.
Ideally, this would be a judgement from the European Court of Justice that the backstop is only temporary.
Mrs May could try to delay the process by revoke Article 50 to allow the whole thing to start all over again.
This would be very hard for the Government to justify without asking voters, which leads us to…
3. SECOND REFERENDUM
The public is asked, essentially, are you still sure you want this?
It would be a huge U-turn for the government and a hard one for the Prime Minister to survive. Which leads us to…
If the defeat is big, and the Government’s plan is unsatisfactory, Labour could call a vote of no-confidence in the Conservative Government.
If the motion is backed in Parliament, a new government with the support of a majority of MPs must be formed in 14 days.
If that is not achieved, Parliament will be dissolved and a general election held.
5. NO DEAL
The government has begun to seriously ramp up no-deal planning, despite more than 200 MPs signing a letter to Mrs May urging her to rule the option out.
If it does occur, the UK will leave the EU on March 29 and be under World Trade Organisation trading rules, with deep uncertainty about supply of goods, services, medicines, and movement of people.
READ MORE: What could a no-deal Brexit really mean for you and me?