Government survives - but what happens next in the saga of Brexit?
PUBLISHED: 20:30 16 January 2019
After a dramatic two days in the House of Commons, attention now turns to what happens next in the Brexit saga - and we should not have too long to wait.
Under the terms of an amendment agreed by Parliament earlier this month, Prime Minister Theresa May has until Monday to outline her next steps to MPs – and this weekend is expected to be very busy for both ministers and backbenchers.
The default position is that unless nothing else happens, the United Kingdom leaves the EU on March 29 – deal or no deal.
However such a move is supported by only about 70 hard-line Brexiteers (although it is gaining support among Conservative Party members according to opinion polls) and MPs have shown they are willing to take action to ensure a no deal Brexit is avoided.
South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge, who supported Mrs May’s deal and is concerned about the impact of no deal on businesses in his constituency, said he understood that no deal on March 29 was the default position – but that would lead to serious legal complications.
He said: “That still needs new laws to be passed involving trade tariffs, immigration and various other requirements. And I don’t think MPs who are opposed to no deal would be prepared to pass that kind of emergency legislation.”
Mr Cartlidge said it would be necessary for the government to talk to reasonable MPs from across the political spectrum to find a solution to the political log-jam.
Bookies say it is now odds-on that Mrs May will seek an extension to the March 29 deadline to leave the EU to allow more time to make preparations and to try to get changes to the deal.
There have been reports that EU officials have told the UK government that the deadline could be moved to the end of July – although if any longer delay is required Article 50 would have to be revoked and the whole process restarted later.
Until now Mrs May has always insisted that the March 29 deadline would have to be met, but a growing number of her cabinet ministers are thought to be discussing bringing in a delay – led by Chancellor of the Exchequer Phillip Hammond who is known to be seriously concerned that a “no deal” Brexit would devastate the UK economy.