The clock is ticking down to Brexit with only 58 days to go until Britain leaves the European Union with or without a deal.
After a series of controversial votes in Westminster and Prime Minister Theresa May off on a shuttle diplomacy trip around Europe to raise support for changes to the withdrawal agreement to appease MPs, here’s a look at the likely scenarios that will play out over the coming weeks:
February 13 – May reports back to Parliament for another vote on the deal – either the amended deal to fudge the Northern Irish back-stop to make it palatable to MPs or the one she has already lost a vote on
If the Prime Minister loses the vote, Parliament has five options:
- No deal
- A second referendum
- A general election
- Another vote of no confidence in the prime minister
- Back to renegotiate the deal
Time that’s not available
All these options other than a no deal will take time – even a no confidence vote could lead to another general election.
And that is time Britain doesn’t really have. The EU is heading for elections without the UK in June and sits from July, and there are doubts the UK can be a non-voting member of the bloc.
If she succeeds, the UK leaves the EU on March 29.
Parliament has rejected a no deal Brexit and favours dropping the Northern Ireland backstop in favour of another unspecified arrangement. That is what May is trying to conjure on her trip around Europe.
Brinkmanship on both sides
Of course, but doubtful, is the government revoking Article 50 to stay in the EU as an additional option.
The EU have offered deal or no deal and categorically stated that a renegotiation to edit the backstop is impossible.
How the story will end is anyone’s guess, but the chances are the EU will relent to save May’s face and to give her something MPs can rally behind to see a smooth, managed departure from Europe rather than a hard Brexit.
Until then, both sides are playing brinkmanship and are unlikely to reveal their hands for fear of losing leverage.