After surviving a vote of no confidence amongst Conservative MPs, Mrs May now needs to get her deal through Parliament to retain her legitimacy as Prime Minister. On the week beginning the 14th of January 2019, the Prime Minister is facing a pivotal moment in her premiership – a vote in the House of Commons on the UK’s Withdrawal Agreement with the EU, ahead of the March 29th departure date.
Mrs May needs a majority in the House of Parliament (322 MP’s, given the abstention policy of Sinn Féin ) for her deal to be ratified by Parliament. However, she faces stark opposition from Conservative backbenchers as well as many in the Labour ranks. The Democratic Unionist Party, who Mrs May relies upon to govern in the confidence and supply arrangement, also have rejected the premise of the deal.
With it looking more and more likely that Mrs May’s deal will not pass in Parliament , the big question therefore is what happens next? There is a possibly that the Labour party might call a vote of no confidence in Mrs May, but this likely will not topple her, unless the DUP decide to break their agreement with the Government and it is inconceivable to envisage Conservative backbenchers bringing down their own government.
Should the Government lose a no confidence vote, then there would be a need to form a new Government within a 14 day period otherwise Parliament would be dissolved and a subsequent general election would follow.
She may also resign, as after all, this deal has defined her premiership so the rejection of the deal may also be viewed as a rejection of Mrs May’s negotiating ability.
If Mrs May was to resign or be ousted, there would be a leadership election within the Conservative party, where a leader would be picked by Conservative MP’s. This usually takes around two weeks, but with the political climate, a new leader would likely be elected much sooner. A General Election in 2019 is more likely if a new leader takes the reigns from Mrs May, to legitimise their position as prime minister. Mrs May could also go back to the European Union to ask for amendments to her deal. However, this seems unlikely due to the European Union’s persisting comments that the current deal is all they will offer at the current moment.
If Mrs May is replaced, then the fate of Brexit has two probable outcomes: no deal or no Brexit. Dominic Grieve’s amendment, which passed Parliament 321 to 299 last week, gives the control of Brexit back to Parliament if Mrs May’s deal is rejected. This amendment could mean a second referendum next year, if Parliament decides to do so. Article 50, which requires that the United Kingdom must leave the EU by the 29th March 2019, could also be extended if the UK Parliament decides to do so, and each of the twenty-seven EU states allow for this extension.
If a second referendum is voted through parliament, then this means it is likely that Article 50 will be extended. The prospect of a second referendum raises many questions; it is not a fait accompli. For instance, what happens if the country votes to leave again? What if the referendum is this time a 60-40 victory for leave? What if remain win by the same margin as leave did in 2016? A ‘people’s vote’ instead of a second referendum could occur where different types of a deal could be put forward to the public to vote on too. However, there does not seem to be a general consensus as to what this would look like? Would the option to Remain be on the ballot?
If there is no majority in Parliament for a second referendum, then the UK would leave the EU without a negotiated settlement and would default to World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.
Whatever happens, U.K politics is in a very delicate position. It is certainly going to be historic. After all, we could see a new Prime Minister, a referendum result overturned or even a new government all within the next year.
Featured image: Max Pixel