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Brexit timeline: A breakdown of the potential scenarios between EU and UK

  • Elis Gjevori
  • 14 Nov 2018

With a Brexit agreement finally in sight what are next steps?

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With the United Kingdom less than five months away from leaving the European Union, a draft agreement has finally been reached between the UK and the EU. 

At 11 pm GMT on March 29, Britain is set to leave the EU in a historic first for the bloc it has been a part of and shaped over the last 45 years. 

A vote on a final deal in the UK parliament, however, could come as early as the end of this month with the UK government aiming to get a final draft of the deal out this week.

The terms of a final agreement are yet to be determined and whether an agreement can be reached is still anyone's guess. 

With the talks heading down to the wire TRT World charts the course the talks could take. 

What happens if there is a deal?

The UK government could seal a deal with the EU as early as this month. After which it would have to submit the agreed deal to the British parliament. 

The parliament will then have an opportunity to scrutinise the deal over five days at the end of which there would be a ‘meaningful vote’ on the deal. A ‘meaningful vote’ in this case means the prime minister has to abide by the results of the vote.

If the deal agreed by the UK government with the EU passes, the government would then introduce an EU withdrawal bill which would become law, entering into force no later than March 29.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has a slim majority of 13 in parliament and is currently propped up by the hard-line Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in Northern Ireland.

With many in her party, both for and against Brexit, at odds with her EU proposals thus far, May’s government could yet be defeated if she is not able to convince her party to vote for the deal. 

What happens if a deal is rejected by the UK parliament?

The British government, having agreed with the EU, will then take the deal to the British parliament for a debate followed by a vote. 

Depending on what the final deal looks like, it could unite Brexiteers and Remainers, who may find common cause in defeating an agreement they feel could leave the UK in a worse situation. 

With May’s government commanding the slimmest of majorities, only a few rebels are needed to scupper the deal. 

The government would then have a little over two weeks to explain what it intends to do next.

On the basis of that statement, the government could either go back to the EU to amend the agreement, extend Article 50 - the mechanism by which the UK is leaving the EU - or propose a ‘no deal’ and leave the EU without a final deal.  

What if the UK and the EU cannot agree on a deal? 

This is a worst-case scenario with both sides facing significant economic and political costs from such an outcome. 

The UK government faced with a no deal would then need to make a statement to parliament at some point in January outlining what it intends to do, which would then be voted on in parliament. 

In the event that parliament votes to reject the government's statement, a motion of no-confidence is likely, which could very well bring down the government and result either in a new coalition government or early elections.

EU Summit meeting

One big part of the equation is that the EU will also need to approve any agreement with the UK after the British parliament has voted in favour of it. 

The European Union summit, a meeting between all the EU leaders, will be held between December 13 and 14. This is widely seen as the last meaningful moment when a final deal will be settled by the EU. 

Waiting until January for an agreement to be reached will likely increase market volatility. It would also allow little if any, time for debate in the UK parliament and a meaningful vote on the agreement.

The next EU summit would be in March 2019 and the likelihood of the EU holding an emergency summit for the UK would be slim.

Chances of a second referendum? 

Voices for a second referendum have remained constant since the day after the British people voted to leave the EU in the largest ever democratic exercise in British history. 

Momentum for a second referendum, according to experts, has not been consistent enough to warrant a trend.

Theresa May has ruled out a second referendum as has the leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn.

Growing tensions within the government

Over the last several months May’s government has been rocked by several ministerial resignations. 

In July, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson resigned arguing that the Brexit dream was “dying, suffocated by needless self-doubt”, adding that under the current path Britain was “headed for the status of colony — and many will struggle to see the economic or political advantage of that particular arrangement.”

His resignation was followed by David Davis, the government’s chief Brexit negotiator, who described the proposed policies as offering “illusory rather than real” control to parliament.

Both ministers had campaigned for Brexit.

The end of last week saw the surprise resignation of another minister, this time the Remainer Jo Johnson, the brother of the flamboyant Boris Johnson.

His resignation throws May’s ability to muster the necessary votes to pass the Brexit Bill into doubt. The outgoing minister Jo Johnson argued that the British prime minister is offering a choice between “vassalage and chaos”.

He went on to say that the offer being put forward by the government was “an agreement that will leave our country economically weakened, with no say in the EU rules it must follow and years of uncertainty for business”.

More resignations could be forthcoming with leading Brexiteers complaining that the government’s proposals would deprive the UK of the necessary autonomy for a sovereign Britain.

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