Prime Minister Theresa May clung to her premiership as the year petered out. She faced a vote of no confidence in her leadership from her own party, which she won, but not without a fight. She also faced fierce criticism for her Brexit deal, saw resignations across her party and was allegedly called a “stupid woman” by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, just days after accusing Jean Claude Juncker of calling her “nebulous.”
So what’s up next?
In the New Year, Mrs May will face her biggest challenge yet: getting her deal voted through the House of Commons before the UK officially leaves the EU at 11pm on March 29.
The vote on this was due to take place on December 11 but was cancelled when failure became inevitable.
First up, as MPs return from Christmas recess, they will resume the debate on the deal which began before the cancelled December vote. That will kick off on January 7.
The week after that – commencing January 14 – the vote will take place.
The Commons vote needs to happen before January 21, as that is the date set in the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, which sets January 21 as the deadline for Theresa May to advise parliament if she cannot get a deal.
READ MORE: What is the Brexit backstop? A simple guide to the Northern Ireland border issue
What happens if Parliament votes FOR the deal?
If it’s a yes vote from Parliament, it allows just 10 weeks for the deal to be ratified before the Brexit deadline on March 29.
But there is little positivity about that happening.
Louis MacWilliam, Immigration Expert at Blacks Solicitors, told Express.co.uk: “If Parliament approves the deal then the Government it will introduce a bill which will enshrine the EU Withdrawal Agreement into domestic law.
“However, it seems highly unlikely that the Government will have sufficient numbers to push through the bill.”
What happens if Parliament votes AGAINST the deal?
If it’s a no vote, the Government will have 21 days to advise Parliament how they intend to proceed.
The EU has repeated time and again there is no room for renegotiation on the deal.
And, as Mr MacWilliam said, there’s hardly any time left to renegotiate, even if it was allowed – the draft deal took two years to thrash out.
So then what?
The Government might try to extend Article 50, the two-year exit clause triggered in 2017, which expires on March 29.
It’s not clear whether this would be possible (we know it’s possible to revoke Article 50, but not necessarily extend it), but as the EU is eager to avoid a no-deal scenario, it could happen.
But without an extension, things look uncertain.
Mr MacWilliam said: “This would leave the Government in a tricky situation of facing crashing out with a no-deal, calling a general election, facing a vote of no confidence, and, or, a second referendum.
“Of these options, a referendum is becoming increasingly plausible.”
While some would see a second referendum happen, it’s not quite that simple.
“A second referendum would require primary legislation,” said Mr MacWilliam
“It would take at least 22 weeks to hold a referendum, from the point Parliament decides to hold one. This would, in turn, require Article 50 to be extended.”
So, again, Article 50 uncertainty comes in to play.
Needless to say, whatever happens in the early months of 2019 will be unprecedented for the UK, and is sure to deliver even more political drama than 2018.
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