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OK, So Where The Hell Does Brexit Go From Here?

Short version: No one knows. Longer version: No, really, no one knows.

Posted on January 16, 2019, at 9:50 a.m. ET

So. Brexit.

Daniel Sorabji / AFP / Getty Images

When last we left you, Britain was staring down the barrel of a historic vote on Theresa May's Brexit deal. It was not the easiest sell.

"Our deal delivers certainty for businesses" says May. Although, in a way, so does a tactical nuclear strike.

Nevertheless, the result could have opened up a number of exciting possible timelines for this sceptred isle (that is a British reference, OK?)...

*picks up Theresa May's deal* But does this spark joy?

...and indeed, closed off many others.

Alex Wickham / Alex Spence / BuzzFeed / Twitter: @StreetEYE

May lost.

House Of Commons / AP

In fact, "lost" is understating it. This was no ordinary loss — this was a gigantic, monumental smack-in-the-face loss on a scale not even glimpsed since 1924. Whatever else happens in her premiership, May can at least console herself with a place in the record books. Hooray!

Where the hell do we go from here?

Well, if you can't be bothered to read the rest of this article, journalists were pretty much calling the next steps hours in advance, thus:

So it currently seems likely that all the amendments will fail. So we get a straight vote on May’s deal. So everyone from all sides can give it a kicking. So it goes down to a whopping defeat. So May goes back to Brussels. So they say “what is it MPs want?” So she says: “Er...”

But for those of you sticking around, let's delve in and try to make sense of it all.

What we can say with certainty is: a) There are only 72 days to go until Brexit day; b) Theresa May's plans absolutely can't happen in anything resembling their current form; c) she is now set to face a no-confidence vote...

Oh, and, d) apart from that, no one has a clue what happens next.

Theresa May and the remaining Tories that support her

Let's talk about that no-confidence vote first. If May is defeated, Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour party — the main opposition — has two weeks to cobble together enough support in the House of Commons to take over the government.

And if he fails, Parliament is dissolved, and it's general election time.

Pretty exciting! Now, surely May would lose a no-confidence vote, right? Wrong.

in the last 6 weeks Theresa May has: -seen her government held in contempt of parliament in an historic first -faced a confidence vote into her own leadership -suffered the worst ever UK government defeat in history but she's still likely to win tonight's confidence vote 🤷

Yep, so screwed is our current political situation that actually, it would be a *shock* if our record-breaking loser of a prime minister were to be ousted.

6.5 hour confidence debate in which not a single person will change their mind?

Her own party will support her on this, if not on her flagship Brexit policy (i.e., basically the only thing she stands for) because they fear a general election. The opposition *want* a general election, but it's somewhat unclear how well they'd do, and a lot of commentators think they only keep talking about it because that's easier than confronting their own internal divisions on Brexit.

The fun thing, however, is that Labour, the opposition party, might just keep on bringing up no-confidence votes — in order to keep the pressure on May, who is only surviving because of a political deal with Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party.

Me eyeing up another vote that will get us no closer to solving anything tomorrow

(And if there's one thing journalists love, it's working late in the evening to cover parliamentary action that's set to have a predictable outcome. But enough about my social life.)

Let's turn to the actual issue of Brexit. What happens next? Well, first things first, the ball is firmly in Britain's, and not the EU's, court.

While the EU undoubtedly has concerns — not least over what's going to happen with the Irish border in all this — they rather pale into insignificance compared with our own.

Hence European Council President Donald Tusk is reduced to asking super-helpful questions like this on Twitter.

So what the hell happens now? As BuzzFeed News reports, the cabinet is divided, and the scale of the defeat has complicated things.

One of the more likely scenarios is that a ~softer~ version of Brexit somehow makes its way through the Commons. May's spokesperson has confirmed that her administration has "talked about entering new cross-party talks" with Labour, and it seems the only way Brexit happens is if it's softer than its current form.

The problem is that this route almost certainly involves eradicating one or more of May's fabled "red lines" — likely the one on staying in the customs union — and the backlash from hardline Brexiteers in May's own party will be severe. Indeed, many think it would tear the party in half.

Theresa May: “Who wants to Brexit with me?” 432 MPs:

Another theory is that she can persuade Brexiteers, the Democratic Unionist Party, and Labour backbenchers in Leave-supporting constituencies to back the deal by showing Parliament won't allow a no-deal result.

To quote one minister, Michael Gove: “There is now a risk of no Brexit happening, and there is a greater chance of a much softer Brexit.”

This is why, though there are still hardline Brexiteers backing no-deal above any of these other options, the scale of the defeat means they think it'll now be tougher to run down the clock until that scenario comes to pass.

Radio 4 this morning sounds like a succession of dads who all reckon they could have fitted this laminate flooring better than whichever cowboy you got to do this.

But on the other side of the coin, hardline Remainers are so averse to no-deal that they could eventually end up forcing a general election, just to avoid it.

It is a mess.

Functioning government https://t.co/XP2P2UFc9R

In summary:

“Hello Dignitas? Me again. Do you do countries?”


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