Theresa May’s withdrawal deal was voted against by the House of Commons on Tuesday for a second time. Now there are less than two weeks to go before the UK are scheduled to leave the European Union on March 29. As Parliament struggles to come to an agreement on how best to exit the bloc, here are four options Mrs May faces.
1. Stick to the deadline – March 29
Friday, March 29 is the end date of the two year negotiation period between the EU and UK, but negotiations have ended in a stalemate.
Mrs May has stated she wishes to extend the deadline to June 30, should her deal be approved in the third vote next week.
EU leaders have said they would agree to “technical extension” lasting a few weeks should the deal be finalised with the Commons.
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2. Extend for just a few weeks – May 10-22
Between May 23 – 26, Europeans vote for a new European Parliament.
Many leading figures have said Britain must be out before then to avoid any legal challenge to the legislature’s legitimacy.
If the UK has not left the bloc by then, they will have to elect their own Members of European Parliament (MEPs).
3. Leave before European Parliament sits – June 30
Should Mrs May’s deal be approved in the third vote next week, June 30 is the date she has set for exit – factoring in time for legislation.
The EU could accept a delay beyond their elections, as the new parliament will not sit until July 2.
If Britain had left the bloc before July 2, the lack of British MEPs would not prove to be a legal problem.
However, will an extension for two or three months solve the issues? The EU has eliminated the possibility of reworking the withdrawal deal – and if it is not passed the delay could give businesses the chance to prepare for a disruptive exit.
4. Rethink – for a year or perhaps two…
Should the Prime Minister’s deal fail for the third time next week, she has pledged to ask for an extension to reconsider the position.
President of the European Council Donald Tusk is urging the other 27 EU leaders to not rule that out.
If Mrs May attends the Brussels summit without a deal, Mr Tusk may suggest that a short delay will not achieve much apart from extending the feeling of uncertainty.
To avoid a disruptive deal, Britain may be asked to rethink what it really wants, creating time for a new election or second Brexit referendum.
This extension has been suggested by some to be until the end of this year, some for one year and others until the end of 2020 or two years.
Leaving the time frame open is not legally possible according to EU officials.
This option would see Britain avoiding no-deal chaos, but having to choose MEPs to sit in the European Parliament – disrupting a redistribution of seats.