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Are we there yet?

A blog by Dr Janice Morphet, Visiting Professor at the Bartlett School of Planning



Are we there yet?

The answer to this question still rests on where you would like the destination to be. If you want to leave the EU without a deal, then this is the only guaranteed outcome now. If you want to leave the EU with a deal, remain or put the deal to a People's Vote, then all of these have been considered but none of the votes in Parliament, even where they were won by a significantly large majority, are legally binding.

Where are we on the PM's deal?

The PM has put her deal to Parliament, as she is required to do as a Meaningful Vote, twice and both times, the vote has been overwhelmingly against her deal. The EU has stated that there will be no more negotiation on her deal. The deal on the table has been crafted to meet the PM's red lines and remains her deal rather than that of the Government. If the UK wishes to change the PM's red lines, such as including membership of the Customs Union and/or the single market, then the EU will offer the UK a different deal. The PM has announced that she is going to place her deal, without changes back to Parliament for a third time but this may hit a constitutional issue as in Parliamentary procedure, the Government cannot keep re-presenting a bill that has not commanded a majority. This may be why the Chancellor Philip Hammond stated today that the third vote on the PM's deal will only be put back to Parliament when she has a likely majority. This could be as late as the 28th or 29th March.

Are we leaving on the 29th March?

As things stand this is the only legally binding decision that has been made by Parliament and complies with EU law. Although Parliament voted last week to extend Article 50, the vote was not binding. Any request must be put to the EU by the PM and then the decision to grant an extension, for how long and on what terms is in the hands of the EU. There is talk of a technical extension until 30th June if the PM's deal passes next week to allow for  the other necessary legislation to go through Parliament. However, if the PM's deal does not pass, then she may ask for a longer extension, possibly in place of the transition period to the end of 2020. If this is the case, almost certainly the UK will be required to participate in the 2019 European Parliament elections. The UK can withdraw Article 50 during any extension period. The EU has stated that it will not agree successive extension periods.

What about the People's Vote?

A motion in favour of the People's Vote was put in Parliament this week but it was lost by a significant majority. The Labour Party was whipped to abstain. The Leader of the Opposition stated today that they may be in favour of a People's Vote on the PM's deal as the price of accepting it  although there was no indication if Remain would be on the ballot paper.

What happens if the PM's deal is accepted?

If the PM's deal is accepted, then the UK moves to the transition period until the end of 2020 and everything remains the same. During this period the UK Government will be negotiating its new relationship with the EU.

What happens if there is no deal?

If there is no deal between the UK and the EU, then the UK becomes a third country and will need to trade on WTO terms. Last week, the Government published its proposals for trade tariffs for goods including food in this situation which have had a mixed reception. This approach will not cover services that include planning and real estate.

Want to keep up to date on Brexit? You can try the BBC's Brexitcast – a podcast which fills in the background to the news and gives the perspectives on Brexit from the EU and the UK.