It’s been two months since Theresa May’s Brexit deal was voted down in the House of Commons – losing by a massive 230 votes, the biggest ever margin – and history has already repeated itself, as last night saw MPs reject the deal for a second time, this time by a slightly lower majority of 149.
But with just 16 days until the UK is officially scheduled to leave the EU, what happens now?
The fear among those who are Hell-bent on Brexit (regardless of the short and long term implications) is that any delay would signal the end of Brexit. But what could really happen next?
What now for Brexit?
Brexit is delayed
Arguably the most likely and most sensible option would be to try and get and extension to Article 50 and put back the leaving date until later this year. There’ll be the usual cries of this being a threat to democracy but, if we look at it from a business perspective, if you were negotiating a contract with a client, and the deadline was looming without tangible progress being made, would you not want to extend that deadline?
Of course, any delay depends upon the EU granting it – as things stand, the UK is legally bound to leave the EU on March 29. We’ll know more in the next couple of days.
There’s another vote on May’s deal
Given that the PM’s deal is still to be the only one on the table, it’s feasible that May could take that deal back to Parliament again and ask the House to reconsider. It’s unlikely that the outcome would be any different, but as the clock ticks down towards a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, it could simply be a case of who blinks first.
There’s a general election
Almost as soon as the deal was voted down, Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition, motioned for a vote of no confidence in the government, which automatically triggers a 14-day countdown to a general election.
The UK leaves with no deal
No matter what happens in the Commons, the UK will leave the EU on March 29th, unless Article 50 is revoked or delayed.
As things stand, this means the UK will leave without a deal, a scenario most agree would cause chaos and be catastrophic for the UK and hardly ideal for the EU either.
A new deal is negotiated
There is, of course, the chance that the PM could go back to Brussels and negotiate a new deal with the EU, but given Europe’s assertion that this is the only deal that can be struck, it’s unlikely any more concessions would be made.
The chance of a new deal hasn’t been helped by the fact the PM delayed the vote on her deal and let the clock tick down to the March 29 deadline.
There’s a second referendum
This seems to be the most divisive option, but a second referendum is potentially the only outcome that could resolve the issue.
Many who voted to leave suggest this as nail in the coffin of democracy, while insisting they knew exactly what they were voting for – but there is no way anyone who voted leave could have foreseen the situation the UK is in now. And as for it being bad for democracy, the Leave campaign being largely run on lies and in contravention of electoral law means the UK’s democracy has already been compromised.
Time is fast running out on this option, if only because there are certain time constraints on running a referendum – another reason Labour is now pushing for a general election.
No one knows what happens next, but the decision makers need to step up soon, as Brexit is now a ticking time bomb.