February 26, 2019 / 3:33 PM / 8 months ago

Factbox: Through the Brexit Looking Glass - What happens next?

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s parliament last month demanded Prime Minister Theresa May renegotiate a Brexit divorce deal that the other members of the European Union say they will not reopen.

EU Chief Brexit Negotiator Michel Barnier walks after European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and British Prime Minister Theresa May at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium February 20, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman

With just 31 days until the United Kingdom is due by law to leave the EU, the options include a disorderly Brexit, a delay or no Brexit at all.

May is pursuing a renegotiated deal but, after growing pressure from ministers who do not want Britain to leave without a deal, she has offered members of parliament the chance to vote on whether to delay Brexit or back a no-deal exit if she fails to get a revised agreement ratified.

Below is a summary of what is due to happen next:


This had been billed as “high noon”, with several MPs in May’s Conservative Party, including some ministers, indicating this would be the last chance they give her to find a way through the impasse.

Her promise that parliament would get an opportunity to vote to reject a no-deal exit and delay Britain’s departure appeared to have staved off the immediate threat of a mass rebellion.

Opposition Labour Party lawmaker Yvette Cooper had planned to use the debate to seek MPs’ support for legislation to force the government to decide between a no-deal exit or delaying Brexit, if a deal had not been approved by March 13. It was not clear if she would pursue this now that May has promised the same.


May has promised to bring back a revised deal to parliament and hold a vote on whether to approve it by March 12.

Before a vote on the exit agreement in January, which May lost heavily, parliament held five days of debate. It is not clear whether there would be another lengthy debate this time.

May is required by law to get parliamentary approval for any exit deal.


If parliament has not approved a Brexit deal by March 12, then May has said parliament will get to vote by March 13 at the latest on whether it supports leaving the EU without a deal on March 29.

This means there will only be a no-deal Brexit on March 29 if there is “explicit consent” in parliament for it, May said.


If parliament rejects May’s deal and then rejects leaving without a deal, May will ask MPs to vote on whether to seek a “short limited extension” to the Article 50 Brexit negotiation period.

May said if parliament votes for an extension, she will seek to agree that with the EU and would bring forward the necessary legislation to change Britain’s exit date in law.


EU leaders are due to meet in Brussels. This could be an opportunity for an eleventh-hour deal or it would be the last chance to agree an extension of the Article 50 negotiation period and delay Brexit to avoid no-deal disruption. If after the summit there is still no deal in sight then May will have to decide whether to delay or go for a no-deal Brexit.


If a deal is seen as viable at the summit, officials could work through the weekend to nail down the details with a final deal - and a possible extension to June 30 conditional on British parliamentary approval - announced on Sunday, March 24-Monday, March 25.


If a deal could be clinched, then the British parliament could vote on it, possibly on March 26. The European Parliament could ratify the deal that week.


This is the day Britain is due to leave the EU. In previous symbolic votes, parliament has rejected the idea of leaving without a deal so there is not likely there would be a majority in support of a disorderly exit.

If parliament votes to seek an extension of Article 50 to give more time to reach an agreement, it is not certain the EU would agree to this or how long the extension would be.

Some MPs, including opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, have said it is now “inevitable” that the government will have to seek an extension even if a deal is reached, as there will not be enough time to pass the legislation for Britain’s exit before March 29.

The leader of Britain’s lower house of parliament, Andrea Leadsom, has said the date might need to be pushed back by a couple of weeks.


The bloc will vote to elect a new European Parliament on May 23-26. The new chamber would sit from July 2, a date that is shaping up to be the EU’s limit for any extension of Article 50.

The EU says Britain would have to organise European Parliament elections on its soil if it were to delay Brexit beyond that as otherwise its people would be deprived of their democratic representation while still being in the EU. The bloc fears Britain would not do that.

Some in the EU also fear that, should Britain vote, it would elect a staunchly eurosceptic representation to the European Parliament that is already expected to have a larger contingent of EU critics influencing the bloc’s policies.

The main centre-right group, whose leaders include German Chancellor Angela Merkel, could also lose its place as the biggest in the European Parliament; UK Labour seats could help the European Socialists overtake the People’s Party, from which British Conservatives broke away to sit separately.


If a Brexit extension is sought, one date being talked about in Brussels is June 30, the Sunday before the new European Parliament sits at 10 a.m. (0800 GMT) on July 2. Some argue for an exit before May 23, the day Britain would otherwise be due to hold an EU election.

The EU would be ready to approve a short Brexit delay should Britain need more time to ensure parliamentary ratification of their divorce agreement, some EU officials have said.

Reporting by Kylie MacLellan, additional reporting by William James in London, Gabriela Baczynska and Alastair Macdonald in Brussels; Editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Janet Lawrence

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