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.
With just six weeks until the United Kingdom is due by law to leave the EU, the options include a disorderly Brexit, a delay to Brexit or no Brexit at all.
May’s hope of presenting a united front to convince Brussels to make changes to the deal suffered a heavy blow on Thursday when both eurosceptic and pro-EU lawmakers in her party refused to endorse her approach, condemning her to defeat in parliament.
Below is a summary of what is due to happen next:
‘HIGH NOON’ – FEB. 27
Despite the Feb. 14 defeat, May has promised she will continue to try and renegotiate the deal with the EU.
If parliament has not approved a deal by Feb. 26, she will make a statement updating lawmakers on her progress on that day and lawmakers will have an opportunity on Feb. 27 to debate and vote on the way forward.
Several lawmakers in May’s party, including some ministers, have indicated this will be the last chance they give her to find a way through the impasse.
Opposition Labour Party lawmaker Yvette Cooper plans to use that debate to seek lawmakers’ support for legislation that would force the government to decide between leaving without a deal or extending the Article 50 negotiation period if it has not had a deal approved by March 13.
VOTE ON A REVISED DEAL – FEB/MARCH
May said the government would bring a revised deal back to parliament for a vote as soon as possible. Before the previous vote, parliament held five days of debate but it is not clear whether there would be another lengthy debate before any subsequent vote.
May is required by law to get parliamentary approval for any exit deal.
EU SUMMIT – MARCH 21-22
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 the summit goes badly and there is still no deal in sight then May will have to decide whether to delay or go for a no-deal Brexit.
LAST WEEKEND – MARCH 23-24
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.
FINAL WEEK – MARCH 25-29
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.
EXIT DAY – MARCH 29?
If May does not get a deal approved by parliament by March 29, Britain faces a disorderly exit, or may be forced 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.
Some lawmakers, including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, have said it is now “inevitable” that the government will have to seek an extension, as there will not be enough time to pass the necessary 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.
EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT ELECTIONS
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 organize 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 center-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.
DELAYED BREXIT – JUNE 30
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.
(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan, additional reporting by William James in London, Gabriela Baczynska and Alastair Macdonald in Brussels; editing by Guy Faulconbridge)
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