Government loses second “meaningful vote”

Having lost the first “meaningful vote” on Brexit by a record margin in January, the Government went on to lose a second “meaningful vote” on Prime Minister Theresa May’s updated Brexit deal. The deal – which had been readdressed in talks with Brussels to clarify the nature of the Irish backstop – was rejected by 391 votes to 242 – a majority of 149.

  • MPs will be asked if they support a “no deal” Brexit
  • The UK might seek to extend Article 50
  • European elections take place in May

Having lost the first “meaningful vote” on Brexit by a record margin in January, the Government went on to lose a second “meaningful vote” on Prime Minister Theresa May’s updated Brexit deal. The deal – which had been readdressed in talks with Brussels to clarify the nature of the Irish backstop – was rejected by 391 votes to 242 – a majority of 149.

“There will be no third chance” – Jean-Claude Juncker

Although the Attorney General found that the amendments would “reduce the risk” that the UK could be trapped in the Irish backstop, the “legal risk (remained) unchanged”. This meant that the UK risked having no “international lawful means” of exiting the backstop without the EU’s agreement.

MPs will now vote on whether they are prepared to countenance a no-deal Brexit. If “no deal” is rejected, they will be asked whether they will support a request to extend Article 50. Otherwise, the UK will leave the EU as planned at 11pm on 29 March, without any deal in place. 

At this stage, any extension to Article 50 is not expected to stretch beyond June; however, the European elections are scheduled to take place on 23-26 May, so a delay could see the UK having to take part in these elections. In any case, the possibility of significant changes to the Withdrawal Agreement appears questionable, given European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s warning: “In politics, sometimes you get a second chance … there will be no third chance”.

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