And now, Parliament’s biggest vote in 100 years
It has been 935 days since the EU referendum — and tonight Parliament will finally vote on the withdrawal deal negotiated by Theresa May. It will probably be rejected. But what then?
Should MPs accept Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement with the EU?
That is the question facing MPs in Parliament today. The consequences will be huge. But no one can be sure what is about to happen. Here are five possibilities…
1/ MPs vote in favour of the deal. This is the simplest outcome, and the one that Theresa May is hoping for. It would mean that the UK officially leaves the EU on March 29.
However, this option is the least likely; a majority of MPs oppose the deal.
2/ A “no deal” Brexit. UK law says that March 29 is the Brexit date, deal or no deal. However, most MPs want to avoid no deal, which would cause chaos. One MP has called it “national suicide”.
3/ A renegotiation. May could decide to go back to the EU and try again. She would probably ask to soften Brexit in order to win support from Labour MPs.
If this happened, the leaving date may be pushed back. Once a new deal was ready, the process would begin again.
4/ A second referendum. Although May has repeatedly ruled this out, asking ordinary voters if they still want to leave the EU would break the deadlock in Parliament. It is the best hope for anyone who wants to reverse Brexit.
5/ A general election. This could be called by Theresa May in an attempt to increase her majority in Parliament. Or it could be forced if the government loses a no confidence vote.
Of course, once the election was over, the new government would still be faced with the same problem: what to do about Brexit?
May talked about history books when she defended her deal yesterday. She said people will look back one day and ask: “did we deliver on the country’s vote to leave the EU? […] Or did we let the British people down?”
But which outcome will be remembered fondly by historians? And will today really be remembered at all?
- Which of these options are you hoping for?
- Split the class into five groups. Each will come up with a list of pros and cons for one of the five possible outcomes listed in this article. Share the lists with the rest of the class, and then vote on which would be the best overall.
Some People Say...
“In case of doubt, vote against. By this rule you will rarely go wrong.”Robert A. Heinlein, Time Enough for Love
What do you think?
Q & A
- What do we know?
- Today is the last day of debate over the withdrawal deal in the House of Commons. MPs will vote on whether to accept or reject it this evening, at around 7pm.
- What do we not know?
- How many MPs will vote against the deal. Reports suggest that around 100 Conservatives are planning to rebel, but some may change their minds. The size of the defeat may help decide what happens next.
- Withdrawal agreement
- The deal is almost 600 pages long. It sets out how the UK will leave the EU. It includes protections for EU citizens living in the UK and vice versa; a “divorce bill” of at least £39 billion; and a Northern Irish “backstop”. This is an attempt to stop a hard border ever forming in Ireland, but it has proved controversial.
- For example, by keeping the UK in a customs union with the EU.
- No confidence vote
- If the government lost, it would have 14 days to win a new confidence vote, or a general election would be triggered.