Brexit votes week explained: How the next 7 days could change UK’s history

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Over the next week, MPs will hold a string of crucial votes on Brexit that will change the future of Britain.

With just 20 days left until we’re supposed to leave the EU, Theresa May’s deal looks doomed to suffer its second historic defeat.

MPs are then set to then vote on whether we leave on March 29 with No Deal.

Then, finally, MPs could get a vote on delaying Brexit – something the Prime Minister says could lead to a second referendum or no Brexit at all.

The high-stakes drama in the House of Commons will send shockwaves down the country – affecting everything from whether you keep your job to when you renew your passport.

Here’s how you can expect it to unfold.

The story so far…

The Brexit deal was defeated 53 days ago – but since then, the offer’s hardly changed

UK and EU officials are set to hold frantic last-minute talks this weekend after an utterly torturous week.

Since her Brexit deal was defeated 53 days ago, Theresa May has been trying to win concessions from the EU over a crucial clause – the ‘Irish backstop’.

In order to stop a return to the violence we saw in the Troubles, there need to be no checks along the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

So if there’s no agreement to ensure this, the backstop will kick in on 1 January 2021. It is a clause in the 585-page Brexit deal that, essentially, will trap the UK under the same customs rules as the EU.

Tories and the DUP say it’s unacceptable because it will stop us striking trade deals around the world and split the United Kingdom indefinitely.

Theresa May wanted either a time limit, an exit clause, or “alternative arrangements” to replace the backstop.

Both sides admitted talks had been “difficult” and “robust”

But UK-EU talks reached deadlock with both sides admitting they had been “difficult” and “robust”.

And Theresa May then gave a speech which appeared to accept things won’t get much further.

She blamed the EU, urging them to give “one last push” and refusing to accept any responsibility for the mess.

Her Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt deepened the anger by warning the EU not to inject “poison” into the relationship – and saying history would judge Brussels.

She blamed the EU, urging them to give “one last push” – prompting a backlash

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, hit back on Friday with a diplomatic bombshell – presenting his entire offer in full public view on Twitter .

He said the UK would be allowed to quit the customs union if it wanted – but Northern Ireland would have to stay in the backstop.

That would split up the UK – enraging Theresa May’s core allies, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

Furious Westminster leader Nigel Dodds said he’d rejected exactly that plan a year ago and branded it “neither realistic nor sensible”.

He added: “It disrespects the constitutional and economic integrity of the United Kingdom.”

And Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay hit back within minutes, tweeting: “With a very real deadline looming, now is not the time to rerun old arguments.”

Sunday 10 March

Will Jean-Claude Juncker and Michel Barnier give the UK any new hope?

This is the last full day that talks can take place between the UK and the EU before the deadline.

Despite the dramatic developments on Friday night, frantic talks are continuing over the weekend in a bid to reach some kind of last-minute breakthrough.

Brexit is expected to dominate the airwaves, with Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Labour’s John McDonnell set to appear on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.

Despite Michel Barnier’s statement provoking a furious backlash, there was hope of some small movement.

The EU chief pledged to strengthen obligations on Brussels to let the UK quit the Irish backstop “in good faith”.

“The EU will continue working intensively over the coming days,” he added.

Downing Street officials did not rule out the possibility of a last-minute dash on Sunday night, or even the early hours of Monday, to Brussels to seal the deal.

Monday 11 March

It seems unlikely, but we could have a dawn dash to Brussels by Theresa May

Dawn on Monday appears to be the last possible time Theresa May can agree a Brexit deal with the EU.

She has to table a motion in the House of Commons by teatime, promising a “meaningful vote” by MPs on whatever stage her Brexit talks are at.

If there’s no breakthrough, then that simply means voting on the same deal again – almost exactly two months after it was defeated.

She’s added some extras, like a £1.6bn fund for left-behind towns and a commitment to seek “alternative arrangements” to the backstop after March 29. But Brexiteers will look for changes to the deal itself.

The Prime Minister, or her Attorney General or Brexit Secretary, could well give a statement to Parliament at 3.30pm outlining what progress she’s had.

If so, the debate that follows will be the key moment for those watching how the vote is going to go.

Tory Brexiteers and the DUP, who are the “key” to unlocking support for the deal, may break cover and give a final indication on how they will vote.

On Monday night at 6pm there’s the meeting of MPs in the Parliamentary Labour Party, a chance to gauge the strength of any Labour rebellion – plus the party’s tactics for the week ahead.

 

Tuesday 12 March: VOTE ON THE DEAL

The first of three mega days in Parliament begins with Super Tuesday

Tuesday will be the first of three huge days in Westminster.

At 7pm, MPs are due to hold their final meaningful vote on the UK’s Brexit deal with the EU.

If it passes, we will leave on March 29 at 11pm with a deal – and pretty much nothing will change until the end of 2020.

But if it fails, that creates what Theresa May herself calls a “crisis”. And don’t forget, the deal was voted down by an all-time-record 230 votes last time.

Before the big vote itself, we have a busy day. Cabinet is at 9.30am and the debate could run for six and a half hours from 12.30pm.

All that’s not to mention the big sub-plot.

First thing in the morning, we’ll learn what amendments have been tabled to the deal itself.

This may well include the ‘Kyle/Wilson’ amendment by two Labour MPs calling for a second referendum, which Labour could well support.

That vote – held at 7pm, just before a vote on the deal itself – would be a key test of support for a second referendum in Parliament. But it’s not widely expected to pass, because too many Labour MPs are against it.

All that may not be the end. If he wanted to, Jeremy Corbyn could stand up at around 8pm and call a no confidence vote in the government.

Labour sources were last week sceptical this will happen – if it’s going to succeed, it needs the DUP’s support which looks remote. But anything is possible.

 

Wednesday 13 March: VOTE ON NO DEAL

No Deal could mean huge tailbacks at the nation’s ports and a legal black hole

If the Brexit deal is voted down on Tuesday night, then MPs will hold their second crucial vote at 7pm.

They will vote on whether to leave the EU without a deal – which we’ve spend more than £4bn preparing for.

MPs are expected to reject the prospect of leaving without a deal, which moves us on to the next stage (scroll down).

But it’s going to be a busy, dramatic day all the same.

First of all, the crucial (and as yet unresolved) question is how Theresa May will vote on a no deal Brexit .

For years she said “no deal is better than a bad deal”. But will she put her vote where her mouth, and a huge sum of taxpayers’ money, is?

 

The big question is – how will Theresa May herself vote on a no-deal Brexit?

Secondly, there’s the question of how she ‘whips’ Tory MPs to vote. If she whips in favour of No Deal, then a string of Remain-backing Cabinet ministers will have to resign.

If she whips against No Deal, it’s an admission of failure. If she holds a ‘free vote’ she’s ducking the issue.

Thirdly, there are other big distractions today. PMQs is at noon, plus if Jeremy Corbyn did call a no confidence vote, it would somehow have to be squeezed into today too.

 

And all that’s not to mention… the Spring Statement.

Yes, in a move we can only assume was designed to punish everyone in Westminster for their sins, the Chancellor’s annual non-Budget economic forecast begins at 12.30pm.

It was originally to be used to spell out no-deal emergency planning, but now it’s set to be a much more low key affair.

 

Thursday 14 March: VOTE ON DELAYING BREXIT

Many Remainers want a delay, Brexiteers hate it – but what will it actually achieve?

If the prospect of ‘no deal’ is defeated, we come to the final big vote at 5pm on Thursday.

MPs will be given the chance to delay Brexit – and they’ll be able to say for how long, too.

Theresa May said she wanted any delay to last no longer than three months, but MPs could amend her motion to make it longer.

They could also amend it to attach conditions – including, crucially, a cross-party bid to keep the UK in a customs union.

This is known as a ‘soft Brexit’, as it would leave us much closer to the EU.

Ahead of the vote, Jeremy Corbyn was holding back-channel talks with Tory MPs in a bid to force Theresa May to back the customs union plan.

Jeremy Corbyn has held talks with Tories. If he pivots to a softer Brexit, it will be big

Amendments will be revealed first thing in the morning, and narrowed down to ones actually facing a vote at around 11.30am.

This could be the vote that really steers the course of the future.

Labour’s policy is currently a customs union, but not a ‘Norway-style’ EEA deal, which in a nutshell is an even softer Brexit that would mean being tied to the EU’s single market and not ending free movement.

There has been talk that Jeremy Corbyn, in his talks with Tory MPs, has been inching closer to this model. If so, Thursday is the first test it may face in Parliament.

 

Friday and beyond

Dawn will break over a new era – or yet another Groundhog Day

Theresa May has said voting for a delay will open us up to a whole new world of unknowns.

A delay won’t be automatic – it has to be requested from and agreed by all 27 nations of the EU.

It would likely be signed off at an EU summit on March 22.

But the Prime Minister claimed Brussels could attach a string of conditions to the delay, such as pushing towards a softer Brexit.

Even if Brussels doesn’t demand it, a delay could well lead to a softer Brexit anyway because that may be the only thing that commands a Commons majority.

A delay could also lead to a second Brexit referendum, the PM claimed – and therefore no Brexit at all.

Despite all this, one minister told the Mirror Mrs May could even try for a THIRD meaningful vote before formally requesting the delay.

Whether true or just speculation, it shows we are in a world of deep unknowns. Buckle up and prepare for a bumpy ride.

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