Theresa May’s Brexit deal was defeated in the House of Commons last night by 432 votes to 202 – the largest defeat for a sitting government in history. It means that even after two years since the country voted to leave the EU, there is still a great deal of uncertainty for businesses and individuals.
While no-one knows exactly what’s going to happen next, the possible options emerging are:
- General election: Jeremy Corbyn has tabled a vote of no confidence in the government. The vote will happen today (Wednesday 16 January). If Corbyn is successful a general election will be called. Theresa May could also then resign and force a Conservative leadership race. If the vote today is unsuccessful, Corbyn can still bring an unlimited number of no confidence votes in the government if he believes he has the support in the coming months.
- Modified deal: there could be another vote on a slightly modified deal. Theresa May has made a statement saying that she will outline how she plans to move forward by 21 January 2019. May has also said that she will hold cross party talks and “focus on ideas that are genuinely negotiable and have sufficient support in this House.”
- Brexit with no deal: as things stand legally right now, in the absence of negotiating a successful withdrawal agreement the UK will automatically leave the EU on 29 March 2019 with no deal. Plans for a no deal Brexit will therefore escalate from today.
- Second referendum: many MPs are calling for a second referendum on Brexit, the so-called “People’s Vote” and backing for this is likely to gain momentum over the coming weeks. One of the issues with a second vote is that there does not appear to be agreement as to exactly what questions would be put back to the people.
- Extension to Article 50: UK could extend the 29 March date of Brexit – if the EU agrees. This would give the UK more time to negotiate an alternative deal with Brussels.
- Cancel Brexit: UK could cancel Brexit without the EU's permission by retracting the UK’s notification to leave under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. This would be contrary to the outcome of the referendum and is perhaps unlikely to happen unless a second referendum is held and the outcome is a decisive vote in favour of remaining in the EU.
Victoria Holland, corporate and commercial partner comments:
“After last night’s vote Jean- Claude Juncker said that ‘the risk of a disorderly withdrawal of the UK has increased with this…vote… the European Commission will continue its contingency work to help ensure the EU is fully prepared.’ The EU is clearly as frustrated as UK businesses with the continued lack of progress in relation to Brexit.
“It’s imperative that businesses and individuals in the UK do all they can to prepare for the possible outcomes. B P Collins’ Brexit team will be happy to discuss your concerns and future planning.”