What happens next with Brexit over the coming fortnight?

What happens next with Brexit over the coming fortnight?
Copyright REUTERS/Luke MacGregor/File Photo
Copyright REUTERS/Luke MacGregor/File Photo
By Alasdair SandfordVincent McAviney
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MPs are due a second ‘meaningful vote’ on the EU-UK exit deal. If it’s defeated again then more votes could lead to Brexit being delayed.


The British parliament voted to rule out a no-deal Brexit in any scenario on Wednesday. 

Ministers had first voted in favour of an amendment tabled by Conservative MP Dame Caroline Spelman which rejected a no-deal.

The Government then called a final vote on an amended motion which attempted to get a no deal Brexit back on the table, but Ministers finally voted 321 to 278 to reject it.

It comes as a fresh defeat to Prime Minister Theresa May, whose Brexit deal was voted down on Tuesday by 391 to 242 votes. It is the second time lawmakers rejected May's deal, after turning it down in January by a historic 230-margin.

Here are the next steps in the Brexit process:

March 14: vote on Article 50 extension

MPs will vote on Thursday on a possible extension to Article 50 — delaying the date on which the UK ceases to be a member of the EU.

Specifically, the government motion gives MPs a deadline of next Wednesday to agree on a Brexit deal. Should a deal be agreed, May would seek a technical extension until June 30.

However, if a deal is not agreed by next week, May will seek a lengthier extension, meaning the UK would need to take part in the European Parliament elections.

But a request to extend the Brexit process under the EU’s Article 50 would need to be made by the British government – and accepted by all the other 27 EU countries.

The prime minister has evoked a short extension until the summer, but European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker said the UK's withdrawal would have to be complete before the May 23 EU elections, as the UK would otherwise be legally required to take part, which May reiterated to parliament on Wednesday.

Some EU leaders including Michel Barnier and Emmanuel Macron have said the UK would need to state a clear purpose.

Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, echoed this in an exclusive interview with Euronews earlier on Wednesday, saying Brussels will immediately ask "why" if London requests an extension.

MPs could put down different amendments to the vote, calling for extensions of several different time periods, potentially throwing the process into further confusion.

Reports have suggested that if she loses the meaningful vote, the prime minister may ask the EU directly for an extension without holding the subsequent votes.

Beyond next week, what next?

A European Council summit of EU leaders is due to take place on March 21 and 22. They will hope to be able to sign off on the revised agreement, however, the bloc is unlikely to approve any extension to Article 50 without a specific reason.

If no deal has been approved by this time, the door may be open for a potential delay to the Brexit process. But the outcome is far from certain and the prospect of a no-deal departure still looms.

With little over two weeks until the UK is scheduled to leave the EU, immediate arrangements in the aftermath, as well as the longer-term relationship, are completely up in the air.

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