The Institute For Government Assesses How Brexit Could Now Pan Out

The next phase of Brexit
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As the UK enters the end game of Brexit, think tank The Institute for Government publishes its report looking at how it could now play out. Anna Tobin reports

The publication entitled Autumn surprises: possible scenarios for the next phase of Brexit and written by programme director Jill Rutter and associate director  Joe Owen looks at the various possible outcomes of Brexit.

Scenario 1 The deal goes ahead as the Prime Minister has planned

A withdrawal agreement is decided upon possibly as soon as October, this then passes through Parliament and the UK exits the EU on 31 October 2019 and a 21-month transition period begins.

Scenario 2: Parliament rejects the Prime Minister’s deal and settles for a No Deal Brexit

In this eventuality, the Prime Minister would not be able to bring forward the Withdrawal Agreement Bill. The report states: “The Prime Minister might decide to see if she can renegotiate the deal – or persuade Parliament to change its mind – or there would be a political crisis. But, under the Withdrawal Act, if the deal is shot down by Parliament and no new deal has emerged by 21 January 2019, the Government must make a statement within five days to Parliament setting out its proposed route forward, accompanied by a ‘neutral motion’ on which MPs and peers would vote. In this case, the Government accepts that Parliament will not approve a deal and Parliament is content to leave with no agreement in place.”

Scenario 3: Parliament rejects the Prime Minister’s deal and sends the Government back to renegotiate

How this scenario plays out would be dependent on what Parliament rejects. If Parliament objects to something fundamental in the withdrawal agreement, the Prime Minister may have little room for manoeuvre, if the objections are minor there is more chance of the deal being successfully renegotiated. There are three problems for the Government with this scenario, however: there is little time to negotiate; the EU must be willing to reopen negotiations; and, any renegotiated package must come back to Parliament for subsequent approval – which could lead back to scenario 1 or 2.

Scenario 4: The Prime Minister declares that it is impossible to do a deal with the EU and Parliament accepts this

Here, the negotiating stand-off in Brussels continues and the Prime Minister and the EU27 find it impossible to reach an agreement. This means that the UK heads for a no deal Brexit.

Scenario 5: The Prime Minister fails to reach a deal with the EU and Parliament sends the Government back to renegotiate

This final scenario sees Parliament intervening to reject a no deal Brexit. How it would do this is uncertain. The report states: “Precisely how Parliament would intervene is less clear. One of the battles over the so-called Grieve amendment during the passage of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 was about Parliament’s role if there is no deal – the Government had originally promised during the passage of the Withdrawal from the European Union (Article 50) Bill 2016–17 that Parliament would vote on a deal, but made no parallel commitment in the case of no deal. The fudge at the end of the parliamentary process for the Act committed the Government to lay a motion in January 2019 if there was no deal. This might well be a ‘take note’ motion, which would not be amendable, but the final decision would be up to the Speaker of the House of Commons (as ‘take note’ motions are generally unamendable). It is likely that if the motion is neutral (as required in the legislation), the Speaker would try to find another way to allow Parliament to express its opinion on what should happen next. In this scenario there would be the same issues around renegotiation as in scenario 3, although potentially on a much more compressed timetable.

Read the full report here

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