As the Brexit battle continues what are the possibilities for the next 10 days?
The Commons Speaker, John Bercow refused the government’s request to hold a “yes” or “no” vote on the Brexit deal yesterday, on the grounds that the deal had already been brought before MPs on Saturday. Speaking in the Commons yesterday, Mr Bercow cited Parliaments rulebook, Erskine May, which states that if a motion is the same “in substance” as a previous one, it cannot be brought back to the Commons during the course of a single parliamentary sessions.
So what happens now?
In order for the UK to exit the EU on the 31 October with a deal, the draft withdrawal agreement which the EU27 endorsed on 17 October, will need to be ratified by the UK Government and concluded by the EU.
Ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement
In order to ratify the Withdrawal Agreement the following must take place:
- the House of Commons must approve it; and
- Parliament must pass an Act of Parliament which contains provisions for the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement, namely the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill (“Withdrawal Bill”).
However on Saturday 19 October, the House of Commons resolved to withhold their approval of the Withdrawal Agreement unless and until the Withdrawal Bill is passed. The Government’s request to hold a “yes” or “no” vote on the agreement on 20 October was refused.
The Government therefore now has the following options available:
1. Introduce the Withdrawal Agreement Bill for Parliament to vote upon. But are the timescales too tight? For the Bill to be passed by the 31 October 2019, then there can realistically be no major amendments proposed. Even if that is the case, the House of Commons would still have to approve the Withdrawal Agreement, and all within 10 days!
2. Extend the Article 50 deadline of 31 October 2019 to 31 January 2020. As a deal had not been approved by MPs by the end of Saturday 19 October, Mr Johnson was required to seek an extension to the 31 October deadline by sending a letter. Whilst the prime minister has sent the required letter, any extension requires the agreement of all 27 EU Countries and they are not obliged to say yes. If the EU refuses the extension and the Withdrawal Agreement has not been ratified then the UK will leave the EU without a deal and we would immediately exit the customs union and the single market.
3. Revoke Article 50 and remain in the EU. There is still the legal option of cancelling Brexit altogether by revoking Article 50. Such revocation does not need the consent of the other 27 EU Countries and just requires a letter to be sent to the European Council.
4. Leave the EU with no deal!
This update was written by Baines Wilson LLP – www.baineswilson.co.uk