Brexit: what happened this week and what's next on the road to leaving the European Union?


MPs this week backed a bid to push Britain’s exit from the European Union beyond the scheduled date of March 29, marking the end of one of the few certainties of Brexit.

It came after Theresa May’s Brexit deal was rejected for the second time on Tuesday.

Any delay will require the agreement of the other 27 European Union members, with talks about any conditions for an extension set to begin before leaders gather at a summit next week.

The Prime Minister is also due to bring her Brexit deal back to the Commons for a third meaningful vote next week, and Attorney General Geoffrey Cox has sought to provide further legal assurances about the Irish backstop.

Here’s what happened in Brexit this week, and what will happen next.

Days to go

Anybody’s guess. Conceivably 14, if the European Union refuses to grant an extension and forces the UK to leave on March 29. 

Or 107, if Theresa May secures a “short, technical” delay to June 30.

Countdown to Brexit: 14 days until Britain leaves the EU

Or 657, if there is a long extension to the end of the proposed transition period on December 31 2020. 

Or some other number that the politicians manage somehow to settle on.

What happened this week?

After a weekend of stalemate, the Prime Minister seemed to have made a breakthrough on Monday, flying to Strasbourg to agree with Jean-Claude Juncker three new documents designed to reassure her critics.

That respite lasted little more than 12 hours, as Attorney General Geoffrey Cox released advice that legally, the new papers hadn’t changed very much. 

Mrs May’s Withdrawal Agreement went down to defeat by 149 votes on Tuesday – the fourth-worst in parliamentary history, compared to the number one slot held by the 230-vote drubbing of the same Agreement in January.

Wednesday saw the PM beaten again, as MPs voted to rule out a no-deal Brexit in any circumstances. 

And on Thursday, a seismic week saw the totemic departure date of March 29 – exactly two years since the UK formally told Brussels it wanted to leave – scrubbed from the timetable, as the Commons voted to delay withdrawal.

What happens next?

Dogged as ever, Mrs May is planning a third attempt to get her Agreement through the Commons in what Westminster is calling Meaningful Vote 3 – or MV3 – probably on Tuesday or Wednesday.

The package will not be much different from the offer decisively rejected twice before by MPs, though the Attorney General is understood to be looking for ways to sweeten the pill of his legal advice. 

Mrs May is pinning her hopes on Brexit-backing Tories, the DUP and Labour MPs from Leave seats swallowing their objections to her plan to fend off the alternative of possibly seeing their cherished goal receding months or years into the future.

If she wins her vote, Mrs May will go to the EU summit in Brussels on Thursday to ask for an extension of up to three months, to allow time to tie up all the legislative loose ends needed for a smooth Brexit.

If she loses, she has said a longer delay will be needed. And EU leaders have indicated that they will only grant that if the UK can explain what it wants to do with the extra time. 

An extension can only be agreed by all 27 leaders unanimously. If they refuse, Mrs May could return on Friday with no-deal Brexit looming seven days later.

Additional reporting by Press Association.

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