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What Happens Now May’s Deal Has Failed?



This evening (15th January 2019) it has been announced that May’s deal has been resoundingly rejected by the House of Commons. 202 MPs voted for the deal and 432 voted against the deal, making it the most catastrophic defeat in for a UK government in decades.

Immediately after the vote Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn tabled a motion of no confidence which could lead to the government losing power (more below).


What Happens Now?

Today hasn’t been the best day for the government, but the most important thing for the government is that they bounce back quickly. There are 10 weeks until the UK is set to leave the EU, but even more than that, the government only has a matter of days to present a plan B.

That’s because the House of Commons recently ruled that after the deal was rejected the government would be required to present their plan B within 3 working days, which doesn’t leave them a tonne of time. So what could the government be working on? What could actually happen now?

Well, there are essentially six main options:

  • The government renegotiate the deal
  • The public are asked to vote again
  • There is a vote of no confidence
  • There is a general election
  • No deal is reached and the UK leaves without any deal
  • Abandon Brexit




The first option is that the UK could renegotiate the deal with the EU, and create something which would be acceptable to MPs. The first hurdle for this plan is how little time there is left, especially when you consider the 3 day deadline. The deadline could be extended by the EU but doing so could be difficult.

Another major issue is that the EU  has made it clear on a number of occasions that the original proposed deal is the only one the UK is going to get, they either take it or leave it. In fact this week Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, wrote a letter saying that the EU wouldn’t be renegotiating.



Second Referendum


As we have discussed before on this channel, referendums aren’t easy and organising one really isn’t simple. In fact, given the amount of time we have left and how long other recent referendums have taken to organise, it looks like a second referendum is virtually impossible. That is unless the UK can get an extension to the article 50 deadline.

We discuss the pros and cons of a second referendum in our video on the topic, so if you’re interested check that video out.



Vote of No Confidence


Immediately after the vote Corbyn set this into motion by tabling a motion of no confidence in May’s government. A motion of no confidence is when MPs are asked if they still have confidence in the government’s ability to operate effectively.

This is different from the vote held in December. That motion was specifically aimed at the Prime Minister and was only voted on by members of the prime minister’s party. This motion of no confidence would be in the whole government. If the government loses it would have a matter of days to try and form a new government. If they fail to do so then a general election will be called…




General Election

In the days before the original December vote May warned MPs that if they didn’t support her deal then it could result in a general election and Jeremy Corbyn’s labour party gaining power.

A general election could come as the result of a vote of no confidence or it could be called by May herself. 

But a May’s Conservative Party is far from guaranteed. May’s deal is very unpopular and remain is ahead of leave in most polls. Polling data from yougov shows that the government would win the popular vote by only the smallest of margins, with 41% of the vote to labour’s 39%. You can find out more about who would win a general election today at but safe to say, victory is far from guaranteed for May.



No Deal Brexit


By default if the UK does nothing or fails to reach any kind of agreement the UK will leave the EU on the 29th March without a deal at all. It’s possible that the UK might be able to get back in in the future, but essentially it would be the end of the line for Brexit.

The government may want to pass laws to prepare for brexit between now and the end of March, but even this is optional, they could just sit back and do nothing and this outcome would happen automatically.




Abandon Brexit


Calling off Brexit  is a possibility. May even said this week that the chance of no brexit was higher than the chance of a no deal brexit.

According to a recent EU ruling all the UK would need to do to scrap Brexit is vote to revoke article 50. This would only need a majority vote in the House of Commons, but could prove very unpopular with leave voters.


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