REGULATION Brexit- what next? David Wright, UKLA Director General

Ten weeks away from the date of the UK’s exit from the European Union (EU), UK Members of Parliament voted down the terms of exit agreed with the European leaders.

Those in favour of Brexit were concerned the Northern Ireland backstop might lock them into EU regulations in future. Those in favour of remaining were concerned the negotiated agreement did not go far enough by excluding a customs union and access to the EU single market.

So for different reasons 432 members of Parliament voted down the deal, a majority of 230 which was the biggest voting majority against a sitting UK government in history.

Donald Tusk, EU Council President, raised the notion of the UK remaining in the EU in the absence of any agreement. Some in the UK government believed the vote in Parliament gave Prime Minister (PM) May a strong mandate for renegotiating the deal. The concern was that with such a large majority against the existing deal, the chasm to bridge would be too wide to reach an agreement which would be acceptable to both sides.

More telling was PM May ruling out an exit on a ‘no deal’ basis which has been written into the UK statute books as the default option in the absence of a deal. With 40 ‘sitting days’ left before the end of March for the UK Government to pass 80-100 pieces of secondary legislation and four major Acts, time is running out as EU Commission President Junckers acknowledged.

Talk around the House of Parliament, following a no confidence motion tabled by the opposition which PM May looks certain to win, is of a general election if the motion is carried or a move towards a second referendum if it is lost.

The question on the referendum to the British people would be to ask them whether they would accept the existing negotiated deal, in the absence of Parliament’s agreement, or whether they wished to remain in the European Union.

Talk of extending the notice period under Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty would mean more time to negotiate although with European elections due in July 2019, which the UK would not wish to field candidates or face a legal challenge, an extension of only a few months is possible. Any extension would require the approval of all other 27 EU member states. On the other hand the UK could withdraw notice under Article 50 without the agreement of the other EU member states at any time.

PM May has said publicly that she feels a duty to deliver the referendum result of Brexit for the British people. She does face a Conservative party split between those who wish to leave and those who wish to remain, as is the case with the opposition Labour party led by eurosceptic Jeremy Corbyn.

If the negotiated agreement was a compromise which failed to satisfy a majority of UK Members of Parliament then it is difficult to see any subsequent negotiation being passed without a second referral to the British people.




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