What’s the next step for Great Britain?

Author: Osman Cetinkaya
Date: 16.01.2019

Brexit deal rejected by majority of House of Commons

For Theresa May it is smack in the eye: the majority of the British House of Commons voted against the Brexit deal. A vote of no confidence against May is scheduled for tonight. So it’s becoming more and more probable that a hard Brexit will come about. Altogether 432 members of the British parliament voted against the Brexit deal. Only 202 MEPs raised their votes in favour.

Already today May wants to face the vote of the delegates. “The House has spoken and the government will listen” May announced immediately after the vote in London.

The only opportunity for a new election is a new election is a successful vote of no confidence. However, almost no one expects the labour initiative to succeed. They would need the help of rebels from the conservative government fraction or the Northern Irish Protestant DUP to make this possible. Nonetheless, it does not look as if any of the two options will come into force.

If the vote of confidence is positive for May, it would put great pressure on Corbyn to face a second Brexit referendum. While this option is not fundamentally off the table, but he has made it dependent on the fact that a new election is not possible. He would also have the option of filing a motion of censure against the government at a later date. However, this should only be successful if the DUP opposes Theresa May. But this would be possible if May should enforce the Brexit deal against the will of the DUP in a second election round.

Majority in Parliament opposes Brexit referendum

So far, a majority in parliament has voted against repeating the Brexit referendum. In addition, it remains to be clarified which question could be put to the voters. According to critics, a second referendum could lead to a deepening of the divide in British society. In June 2016, a narrow majority of the British population voted in favour of leaving the EU. According to surveys, this opinion has not changed until today. It is therefore questionable whether a repetition of the referendum would make any sense at all and would produce a different result.

Theresa May already warned against a second referendum, as this could divide the country even more. She also said that she was against a hard Brexit without a deal, and at the same time she praised her own deal. She also opposed Corbyn, saying that the vote was not about getting one’s own way, but about making the best possible decision for the country. Corbyn had previously criticized and questioned the British government’s “botched negotiations”. He even called on MEPs to vote against the May Agreement. He justified this by saying that the deal would have a negative impact on both the economy and the country.

Postponement of May’s EU resignation rejected

The majority of MEPs have spoken out in favour of postponing the withdrawal from the EU and this idea also seems acceptable to Brussels. May, on the other hand, is strictly against it. Whether there will be a renegotiation with the EU despite the bitter defeat is questionable. Sebastian Kurz, Prime Minister of Austria, has already rejected any renegotiations. “In any case, there will be no renegotiations on the withdrawal agreement,” he wrote on Twitter. Elmar Brock, CDU MEP, is now waiting for a statement from the British. “The defeat in the House of Commons for the resignation agreement was so high that the British government now has its turn.” London now has a duty to make a proposal as to what the next step should look like.

For EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, the danger of a hard Brexit has clearly increased. But even if the EU opposes it in principle, the EU Commission will now continue the preparations for the No-Deal-Brexit. Junker appealed to the UK “to clarify their intentions as soon as possible”.

The Irish also want to strengthen their preparations for the hard Brexit. “Unfortunately, the outcome of this evening’s vote has increased the risk of a disorderly Brexit. Consequently, the government will further intensify its preparations for such a result” was the statement.

Government responsible for Plan B

By next Monday, the government must present a Plan B to parliament, which could come into force as an alternative in the event of defeat. A vote on this plan would then have to be taken within seven session days, in other words by 31 January at the latest. Whether the government is legally bound by these requirements, remains unclear. If no agreement can be reached in the next few weeks, there will most probably be a withdrawal without an agreement, which will have a dramatic effect on almost every area of life.

The contractually agreed fall-back solution for the border to Ireland is probably the biggest point of criticism for Theresa May’s opponents. The purpose of this fall-back solution is to ensure that the border between the British North of Ireland and Ireland, which is part of the EU, is not handled too strictly. According to the so-called “backstop”, a common customs union with the EU should remain in place. Northern Ireland would therefore continue to have the rules of the EU’s internal market.