Nine sce­nar­ios: what hap­pens next if Mrs May loses the vote on Tues­day

The Daily Telegraph - - Brexit Countdown - By Camilla Tominey AS­SO­CIATE ED­I­TOR

It is the Brexit ques­tion on ev­ery­one’s lips. With Theresa May’s with­drawal plan doomed to fail­ure at Tues­day’s mean­ing­ful vote, what hap­pens next in the chaos that is Bri­tain’s de­par­ture from the EU? With no con­sen­sus in Par­lia­ment for any al­ter­na­tive, we present nine pos­si­ble sce­nar­ios in a bid to un­der­stand all the op­tions avail­able to the Gov­ern­ment in the seem­ingly in­evitable event of a mass re­bel­lion in three days’ time.

1. Emer­gency EU sum­mit

Seven min­is­te­rial res­ig­na­tions down since the deal was agreed, and with out­right mutiny brew­ing on the back­benches, Mrs May could have no choice but to call a last-minute meet­ing with Michel Barnier in a fi­nal roll of the dice to re­move the uni­ver­sally hated Ir­ish back­stop from the deal.

In­sid­ers say the EU’S chief ne­go­tia­tor would agree to meet Mrs May, but hav­ing de­clared the 585-page doc­u­ment “the only and best pos­si­ble way to or­gan­ise an or­derly with­drawal” it seems un­likely he’ll budge. De­spite in­sist­ing the EU would do ev­ery­thing it could to avoid us­ing it, Brex­i­teers are un­con­vinced. They would want Mrs May to play se­ri­ous hand­ball with Mr Barnier, telling him that a no-deal Brexit would mean a hard border in North­ern Ire­land, mak­ing the back­stop en­tirely self-de­feat­ing. Like­li­hood: 1 out of 5.

2. The deal passes

When Ja­cob Rees-mogg de­clared last week that the Gov­ern­ment may still win the mean­ing­ful vote by a nar­row mar­gin, many sus­pected he had been at the Com­mu­nion wine. But as one Tory source put it: “Never un­der­es­ti­mate the craven self-in­ter­est of the av­er­age politi­cian and the might of the gov­ern­ment ma­chine.” If the deal does go through with the Ir­ish back­stop in­tact, the DUP is ex­pected to with­draw its con­fi­dence-and-sup­ply ar­range­ment, leav­ing Mrs May run­ning a mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment that will in­evitably be chal­lenged by a Labour vote of no con­fi­dence. More let­ters would in­evitably be handed to Sir Gra­ham Brady, chair­man of the 1922 com­mit­tee, by Tories on both sides of the Brexit di­vide who ap­pear united in their dis­sat­is­fac­tion at a deal likely to mean obliv­ion for them at the next elec­tion, with the lat­est Ip­sos MORI poll re­veal­ing 62 per cent of the Bri­tish pub­lic thinks it’s a bad deal. Like­li­hood: 2 out of 5.

3. Sec­ond vote

Mrs May’s deal is voted down and, chan­nelling her in­ner David Cameron fol­low­ing the re­bel­lion over Syria, she is­sues an im­me­di­ate Dis­patch Box mea culpa and flies straight to Brus­sels to rene­go­ti­ate. She could buy time by say­ing she wants to wait to ad­dress lead­ers at the EU Coun­cil sum­mit on Dec 13 and 14 be­fore re­turn­ing with a re­vised plan. Against all odds she se­cures con­ces­sions and with the pound tank­ing and mar­kets in freefall, be­lea­guered back­benchers vote the amended deal through “in the na­tional in­ter­est”. Seems un­likely, un­less the back­stop is re­moved en­tirely.

MPS don’t want changes to the non-bind­ing po­lit­i­cal dec­la­ra­tion, but to the treaty it­self. Any sec­ond vote is most likely to hap­pen be­fore MPS break up for Christ­mas on Dec 20. Like­li­hood: 2 out of 5.

4. No-con­fi­dence vote

Labour could ta­ble a no-con­fi­dence mo­tion whether the deal passes or fails. If it passes but she loses the DUP’S sup­port, the Op­po­si­tion can chal­lenge her au­thor­ity as the leader of a mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment, just the same as if it was voted down in triple

The cer­tainty is that in the ab­sence of any other ac­tion, the UK will leave the Euro­pean Union on March 29 2019

fig­ures, which would also call into ques­tion her lead­er­ship. Equally, with some Tory MPS wait­ing for an “acute event” to oust Mrs May, the 48-let­ter thresh­old could be reached on the Tories’ side if the vote fails, prompt­ing a lead­er­ship chal­lenge. What­ever hap­pens, Mrs May’s fate lies with those 10 DUP MPS, who will have to de­cide what is more im­por­tant: putting up with the Ir­ish back­stop or risk­ing a Cor­byn gov­ern­ment. Like­li­hood: 4 out of 5.

5. Early elec­tion

If the Gov­ern­ment is voted down fol­low­ing a no-con­fi­dence mo­tion, a two-week win­dow opens for the Tories to try to form an­other gov­ern­ment un­der a new leader. If this can­not be done, and no new con­fi­dence mo­tion is passed to back a new gov­ern­ment within that pe­riod, Par­lia­ment is dis­solved for a gen­eral elec­tion.

Mrs May could take a stand, call­ing an elec­tion and say­ing her deal is the foun­da­tion of the Tory man­i­festo, in a bid to win a pop­u­lar man­date for it. But un­der the Fixed Term Par­lia­ments Act 2011, a prime minister no longer has the power to call an elec­tion at will. They have to win a Com­mons vote by a two-thirds ma­jor­ity. Few Tory MPS would risk Jeremy Cor­byn hav­ing the keys to Num­ber 10. Like­li­hood: 2 out of 5.

6. Nor­way

The With­drawal Agree­ment is voted down, but re­turns for a sec­ond vote with an amend­ment added by Nick Boles and his pro-nor­way+ pals in­struct­ing the Gov­ern­ment to join the Euro­pean Eco­nomic Area (EEA), which al­lows non-eu mem­bers ac­cess to the sin­gle mar­ket. Al­though this avoids the per­ils of the back­stop, thereby pulling Re­main­ers and pos­si­bly the DUP on­side, Brex­i­teers re­gard it as half-in-half-out pur­ga­tory that gives Bri­tain no control over free­dom of move­ment: most Leave vot­ers’ red line. Labour’s front bench is also likely to re­ject such a deal. Jeremy Cor­byn’s spokesman has said: “We’ve said in re­la­tion to the Nor­way op­tion that we just don’t think it works for Bri­tain, and we’ve said that all along.” Like­li­hood: 3 out of 5.

7. Sec­ond ref­er­en­dum

The With­drawal Agree­ment is voted down, but re­turns for a sec­ond vote with an amend­ment added by Do­minic Grieve and his Re­mainiac cross-party co­hort, say­ing they’ll only sup­port the deal if the pub­lic is asked again. No one can agree on the ques­tions and the mar­kets are once again sent into freefall while Leave vot­ers march on Par­lia­ment and pos­si­bly riot in the leafy streets of the Home Coun­ties. Ar­ti­cle 50 has to be sus­pended to al­low for the five-month de­lay in set­ting up a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum. Looks un­likely un­less Labour fi­nally swings be­hind this po­si­tion as a sec­ond-best op­tion af­ter fail­ing to force a gen­eral elec­tion. Needs a Com­mons vote and there’s no ma­jor­ity.

Like­li­hood: 2 out of 5.

8. No deal

The cer­tainty is that in the ab­sence of any other ac­tion by Par­lia­ment or the Gov­ern­ment, the UK will leave the Euro­pean Union on March 29 2019. This is the de­fault le­gal po­si­tion, al­though iron­i­cally – given the to­tal lack of con­sen­sus – there does ap­pear to be a ma­jor­ity in the Com­mons against al­low­ing this to hap­pen. By what pre­cise means it can be stopped is un­clear. Mr Grieve’s amend­ment gives MPS the chance to in­flu­ence what hap­pens 21 days af­ter the deal is voted down but it is non-bind­ing on the Gov­ern­ment. Most likely to hap­pen un­der a new leader who would have the po­lit­i­cal cap­i­tal to stand firm in the face of cliff-edge hys­te­ria and the M20 turn­ing into a lorry park. Like­li­hood: 4 out of 5.

9. No Brexit

Mrs May suf­fers such a his­tor­i­cally hu­mil­i­at­ing de­feat that she loses a con­fi­dence vote. Par­lia­ment is thrown into to­tal chaos, and a cross-party group of re­main MPS emerges from the car­nage to form a gov­ern­ment of na­tional unity. A vote passes agree­ing to re­voke Ar­ti­cle 50 and can­cel Brexit un­til an al­ter­na­tive plan is de­cided. Na­tional hu­mil­i­a­tion en­sues fol­low­ing a crow­ing press con­fer­ence fea­tur­ing Mssrs Barnier, Jean-claude Juncker and Don­ald Tusk spray­ing cham­pagne over each other, For­mula One style. Like­li­hood: 1 out of 5.

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