What next this week?

The Scotsman - - Brexit -

Theresa May’s Brexit plans are due to be put to the Com­mons to­mor­row at the end of five days of de­bate in West­min­ster.

The vote had been sched­uled to take place in De­cem­ber but was called off at the 11th hour with Gov­ern­ment vic­tory look­ing un­likely.

MPS con­tinue to be di­vided on the plans, with a num­ber of pro-re­main­ers call­ing for Mrs May’s deal to be voted down, and some ar­dent Leavers push­ing for the same re­sult to en­sure a nodeal Brexit.

So what hap­pens next? The sim­plest out­come to plot comes if the Gov­ern­ment wins the vote on the With­drawal Agree­ment.

In this in­stance, the UK would leave the Euro­pean Union on 29 March and de­bate would move on to the terms of a fu­ture trade deal with the EU, which would need to be ne­go­ti­ated by the end of 2020 to avoid trig­ger­ing the Ir­ish bor­der back­stop, keep­ing EU cus­toms rules in place.

How­ever, de­spite a small num­ber of crit­ics now say­ing they will sup­port the deal, it is still ex­pected to be de­feated by a wide mar­gin.

Fol­low­ing a gov­ern­ment de­feat, a whole host of sce­nar­ios could play out.

An amend­ment passed by Par­lia­ment means that the Gov­ern­ment must come back with their Plan B three days fol­low­ing the vote.

It isn’t clear whether Theresa May would stay on if she loses, or re­sign. Could plan B un­der a new Prime Min­is­ter in­clude dis­cus­sion about a free trade agree­ment, cus­toms union, mem­ber­ship of the sin­gle mar­ket or even a se­cond ref­er­en­dum on the deal?

The prospect of Labour putting for­ward a vote of no con­fi­dence in Mrs May has been mooted and a gen­eral elec­tion could take place should the Gov­ern­ment lose. Some op­po­si­tion MPS, led by the SNP and Lib­eral Democrats, are also seek­ing a so­called Peo­ple’s Vote.

The Gov­ern­ment could also ask for an ex­ten­sion to Ar­ti­cle 50 - which would have to be agreed by the re­main­ing 27 mem­bers of the bloc.

How­ever, EU mem­ber states are only ex­pected to grant this if the UK is ready to aban­don the red lines that have made reach­ing a deal such a chal­lenge.

Should the EU not agree to a post­pon­ing of Brexit then the UK would leave the EU with­out a deal on 29 March, with warn­ings of sig­nif­i­cant dam­age to trade. Cur­rently, that dead­line is the only le­gal cer­tainty.

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