Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plan will return to the Commons for a second “meaningful vote” on Tuesday, 17 days before the UK is expected to leave the European Union (EU). The vote, in which MPs will either approve or reject the current Brexit template, is largely expected to fail again after talks failed to make progress at the weekend. Downing Street admitted negotiations remain at a “deadlock” despite a desperate phone call to salvage the deal between Mrs May and Jean-Claude Juncker on Sunday.
If the Prime Minister fails to get her deal approved by the Commons tomorrow, it will set in motion of a chain of events with potentially massive consequences for the UK.
So what are the votes and the options available to MPs this week?
Tuesday’s meaningful vote
MPs are deciding whether or not to back Mrs May’s current deal, which has not essentially changed since it was last rejected in January.
The sticking issue is the Irish backstop, the insurance policy keeping the UK in the customs unions in order to prevent a hard border.
Tory Brexiteers are opposed to the backstop but the EU is refusing to let Mrs May implement changes.
This means the vote is likely to fail tomorrow but the question is by how much?
If the Conservative leader loses by a narrow margin, she may possibly be allowed a third meaningful vote.
However, the Brexit plan is expected to fail by a large majority – Mrs May has already been warned a rejection of her Withdrawal Agreement is “inevitable”.
If this happens, then MPs have been promised two further votes in the Commons – whether to accept a no-deal Brexit or extend Article 50.
No-deal Brexit and Article 50 extension votes
On Wednesday, March 13, politicians will decide whether or not the UK should leave the EU with no deal in place.
If they back this vote, then that is exactly what will happen on the current Brexit deadline date, March 29
But if MPs vote do not support it, they will vote again – this time on Thursday, March 14 to decide whether or not to extend Article 50.
If the answer is yes, the UK will need to formally request the EU for an Article 50 extension.
If Brussels agrees to it, this will postpone Brexit for an as-of-yet undefined period of time.
If MPs do not vote to extend Article 50 then this could create huge uncertainty potentially resulting in a no-deal Brexit, a second referendum or general election.
Right now, no-one knows for sure what would happen in this situation.
One remote possibility in the event of the UK heading towards a no-deal Brexit is tht the EU might decide at the last hour to come back and negotiate the backstop.
Arch Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg has separately urged Mrs Mays to table a “conditional” motion seeking out alternative Parliament-backed plans for the backstop.
However, a spokesman for Mrs May played down this “speculation”, insisting Tuesday’s “meaningful vote” was ready to go ahead.