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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 March 2019

Brexit moment of truth: Why you should check back in on crunch week

MPs are expected to reject the government's revised plan for leaving the EU

Anti-Brexit placards lie outside the House of Parliament. Getty
Anti-Brexit placards lie outside the House of Parliament. Getty

With Britain poised to leave the EU on March 29, the country has endured a long battle over the deal to depart the 28-member block.

The search for an exit deal that can successfully pass through parliament reaches its moment of truth on Tuesday. The traditional UK political parties are split from within, while the EU has retained its unity in negotiations with the British government.

MPs likely to reject government’s Brexit deal

On Tuesday evening, MPs will vote on Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit plan, which she has agreed with Brussels. A version of the deal was rejected in parliament in late January by a record 230-vote majority against a government proposal.

The problem continues to revolve around the controversial Irish backstop – the safeguard against a hard border on the island of Ireland. Mrs May has struggled to get a legally binding guarantee from the EU that the backstop would be temporary, as desired by Eurosceptic members of her party.

Most observers see it as highly unlikely the deal will pass through parliament and Mrs May’s spokesperson has been forced to deny rumours the prime minister may delay the vote with only a couple of weeks to go until the UK leaves the EU.

Taking 'no deal' off the table

If the deal is shot down again by parliamentarians as expected, another vote will be scheduled for Wednesday, this time on taking the potentially calamitous option of a "no deal" Brexit off the table. Business leaders and many MPs say this would be a catastrophe that would savage the economy and cause the pound to plummet, as the UK left the EU without any sort of agreement in place.

Should Brexit be delayed?

If MPs vote against the possibility of a no deal exit of the EU, they will decide on Thursday if they should seek to push back Brexit day from March 29, something Mrs May has said she does not want to do.

This would require permission from the EU, who are running out of patience with the British government.

What happens after that is anyone’s guess, with many MPs, including the Labour party, advocating for a second referendum. As said by Mrs May last week, rejecting her deal could lead anywhere – including not leaving the EU at all.

The key players in parliament

Any MP could tip the balance but some are in particularly prominent positions.

Theresa May Those close to the prime minister have insisted this week’s vote will go ahead. She, above all, retains the ability to ask for an extension and it is her deal MPs are voting on.

Jeremy Corbyn The Labour leader has backed the call for a potential second referendum, although allegedly reluctantly. How strictly he insists his MPs follow his outlook, which is not always clear, is one factor in setting up the final reckoning in parliament.

Jacob Rees-Mogg The hardline Brexiteer leads the European Research Group, the Eurosceptic faction within the Conservative Party. He is highly critical of the backstop and against any sort of delay to the Brexit process.

Nigel Dodds The deputy leader of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party is against the backstop. He represents the ten DUP MPs in Westminster who are currently in a loose partnership with the government to ensure the Conservatives have a majority in parliament.

Amber Rudd The former interior minister turned work and pensions secretary is pro-remain and in favour of a soft Brexit. Along with a handful of other senior government officials, Mrs Rudd has threatened to quit to prevent a no-deal outcome coming into effect.

Updated: March 12, 2019 12:21 PM

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