Despite being billed as “Super Saturday,” a special parliamentary session in the House of Commons offered little detail on when, or even if, Britain will finally exit the European Union.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson was thwarted by a cross-party group of politicians who voted to postpone the “meaningful vote” on his new divorce deal and force him to ask Brussels for an extension to the current Oct. 31 Brexit deadline.
The developments in Parliament set up a complicated week with just 11 days left until the U.K. is still due to leave the world’s largest trading bloc.
Will there be a deadline delay?
Johnson grudgingly asked for an extension to the deadline late on Saturday night, but EU leaders don’t necessarily have to accept it. Some have ruled out giving Britain more time, piling pressure on U.K. lawmakers to accept the current deal. But it’s unlikely they would want a no-deal scenario and the potential economic hit it could mean for both sides of the English Channel.
Brussels could offer a technical extension of a few weeks in the hope of passing the agreement they recently thrashed out with Johnson. Or they could accept what Johnson was obliged to ask for on Saturday night and push the date back to January 31, opening the door to a U.K. general election — which itself could lead to a renegotiation or a second referendum.
They could also push it out until June 2020 when the next cycle of EU budgets begins, but this is seen as unlikely with the Brexit fatigue that has set in across the whole of Europe.
EU leaders are expected to take their time with a response, but it could come as early as Monday.
When will the vote now happen?
The U.K. government is keen to have its “meaningful vote” on Monday, but this could be rejected by the house speaker as it’s not parliamentary convention to repeatedly ask the same questions to politicians.
Instead, the government could present the full Withdrawal Agreement Bill early this week and slowly to try to pass it through both chambers — the House of Commons and the House of Lords. This will involve days of debate, many attempts to amend the bill and a selection of different votes as the week progresses. A crunch, decisive question to lawmakers would then come later in the week or be pushed back even further.
Could we still have no deal?
Yes. The cross-party amendment that was backed on Saturday tried to reduce the odds of a no deal, but it could still happen. The EU could say no to an extension. The passage of the bill could also be held up and not make it through Parliament in the time available.
Could there still be a second referendum?
Yes. Some MPs (Members of Parliament) will likely try to amend the bill this week to make sure there is a “confirmatory” referendum. If a lengthy extension is granted by the EU then nothing is ruled out. Several opposition parties would campaign to offer a so-called People’s Vote in the event of a general election, or could promise to abandon Brexit altogether.
JUSTIN TALLIS | AFP | Getty Images
What are the experts saying?
Capital Economics called Saturday’s vote “a decent result for the economy and the pound as it makes a no deal Brexit on 31st October even less likely.” But it added that “it does extend the uncertainty that has been hampering growth for a least a bit longer.”
Analysts at Deutsche Bank said “the outlook for a Brexit resolution remains constructive,” explaining that the makeup of the voting on Saturday actually meant that Johnson could receive enough backing for his deal at a later date.
The bank also said it would “retain our constructive outlook on the U.K., and long sterling and short U.K. real yield recommendations.”
If Brexit already seems complicated, it might be about to get a whole lot more so.