Theresa May has announced a three-step plan that could lead to delaying Brexit.
Theresa May outlined a shift in her Brexit plans in a statement to the House of Commons.
She unveiled a “three-step plan” that could lead to delaying Brexit .
Those steps are:
- March 12: Vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal. By this date, the government will hold a new “meaningful vote” on the 585-page Brexit deal. If it passes, Brexit happens with a deal, almost certainly on March 29 (or with a tiny extension). If it fails, or there’s no vote, move to step 2.
- March 13: Vote on No Deal Brexit. By this date, Theresa May will table a Commons motion asking MPs for their “explicit consent” to leaving the EU with no deal. If they give consent, we leave with No Deal on March 29. If they don’t give their consent, move to step 3.
- March 14: Vote on delaying Brexit. On this date, MPs will hold a vote on whether to delay the date of Brexit by up to three months – to the end of June.
Why has she done it now?
The Prime Minister announced the major change in a desperate bid to head off a Tory revolt.
Remain-backing ministers had lined up to warn they’d defy the government and vote to delay Brexit, as soon as tomorrow night.
That could have forced around 15 ministers to resign.
The Remainer Tories were prepared to back an amendment by Yvette Cooper and Oliver Letwin, which said MPs should get a vote on delaying Brexit if there’s no agreement by March 12.
By announcing her own plan (which is almost exactly the same), the Prime Minister has taken control of the process.
Oliver Letwin announced there is now “no need” for his Bill to delay Brexit because Mrs May’s statement “does what is needed”.
Is delaying Brexit guaranteed?
No. But it’s now more likely.
Technically, we have to get through three votes before Brexit will be delayed.
But the odds are on all those votes tipping towards delaying Brexit.
Downing Street today insisted the focus and “very strong preference” remains on getting a revised Brexit deal.
Attorney General Geoffrey Cox is in talks today with Brussels to revise the Irish backstop – a clause in the 585-page deal that could extend EU customs rules over the UK.
But no big changes are expected, so the deal’s expected to be voted down – just as it was by a record margin in January.
Then there’s the vote on No Deal, but the Commons has already shown it has a majority on No Deal Brexit.
There are some unknowns of course. We don’t know yet how the government will whip its MPs to vote on a delay. Will they be told to back one? Or will ministers have to resign if they do?
Could May’s deal still pass?
Theresa May’s Brexit deal was shattered by a record-setting 230-vote majority in January.
Yet, whisper it, there is still a way the deal could pass.
Now that she’s dangling the prospect of a delay, Brexiteer Tories may feel so boxed in that they have no choice to accept Theresa May’s plan by March 12.
It’s not what they want – but it now looks like the only way to ensure Brexit happens on time on March 29.
Of course, those Tories alone won’t be enough to pass the deal. Theresa May has a tiny majority and there are plenty of Tory Remainers.
But 25 Labour MPs showed last month they’re prepared to rebel to stop Brexit being delayed. If those forces unite, then technically, the deal could get through.
Is No Deal Brexit definitely off the table?
And MPs are furious.
Theresa May insisted that even after a delay, “the choices we face would remain unchanged.
“Leave with a deal, leave with no deal, or have no Brexit.”
Labour MP Stephen Doughty said: “This is yet more trickery from the PM.
“She’s still refusing to take no deal off the table legally or otherwise no matter what Commons says or does.
“It’s all just ‘her way or the highway’.”
Could the delay be longer than 3 months?
Theresa May said today she would seek the shortest possible extension, and not beyond the end of June.
That date’s been chosen because new MEPs take their seats from July 1, and the UK is supposed to have no MEPs by then.
Yet the motion that gets put before MPs will, crucially, be “amendable”, No10 officials said today.
That means MPs could force a longer delay on the Prime Minister, and she is “committed to legislating” for the result.
Downing Street did, however, reject reports of a 21-month delay – saying it’s not been brought up by EU leaders in talks with the Prime Minister.
Does this make a second referendum more likely?
A second EU referendum has become slightly *more* likely in recent days, after Labour backed a bid to hold one.
But overall, it’s still looking very unlikey.
There aren’t enough pro-referendum MPs in Parliament to back one, and Theresa May continues to oppose the idea.
She said today it would be “divisive” for the country.