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UK Defeats Brexit Deal and Prime Minister May Faces No-Confidence Vote

Last night, with just 74 days before the looming exit date for the UK, the House of Commons voted down May’s Brexit deal with historic numbers. Following eight days packed with over 200 speeches of debate, the verdict of 432 to 202 delivered an unprecedented defeat in terms of the modern era of Parliament. A majority of 230, breaking the previous record set in 1924, was caused by May’s own Tory party turning against her deal, completely ignoring her pleas to accept the Brexit deal two and a half years in the making.

With no clear way forward, the Labour Party added to the chaos last night with an immediate trigger of yet another vote of no-confidence in Prime Minister May. In a passionate speech to the House of Commons, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn claimed the defeat to be catastrophic and that a vote of no-confidence was needed in order to right the “sheer incompetence of this government.”

The motion of no-confidence will now pass to the House of Commons for debate today, the 16 January, which May stated she will allow for in the face of such a defeat the previous night. If May looses the vote, which many believe will not happen as the DUP has already stated they will back the Prime Minister, then May will have just two weeks to regain the confidence of the government otherwise a general election will be triggered. However, if May survives the vote, then, as according to her speech given last night following the vote, she will proceed with her two step plan to break the Brexit stalemate. First, she will hold “constructive” cross-party talks with lawmakers to try and find a new way forward. Second, with the hope that a consensus will emerge from these talks, May will take the revised Brexit plan back the European Union.

This may seem all well and good, except there is no guarantee that the EU will be open to renegotiate. In fact, immediately following the House of Common’s defeating vote, word from Brussels came that the EU will not reopen the negotiations. Both European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker stated that the UK must clarify its intentions while in the meantime the EU will prepare for a no-deal situation.

With 29 March quickly approaching, the UK is running out of time. A no-deal situation is becoming more likely, as to avoid this the UK would have to either agree and approve a Brexit deal, issue a second referendum, or appeal to the EU for an extension of Article 50, all three of which the UK seems to be strongly opposed to.

Note on Brexit discussions in the European Parliament’s plenary session

16 January 2019

The European Parliament discussed this morning the outcome of the meaningful vote in the UK Parliament, which saw the government being defeated by a historical majority. EU Council President Tusk already yesterday and Michel Barnier (EU chief Brexit negotiator) today commented on the vote, emphasizing that the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement is a prerequisite for any kind of future relationship. European Commission President Juncker letter in which he accentuated that the chance of no deal now has increased.

During his intervention, Barnier sustained that the negotiation process was objective and had aimed at protecting the rights of EU citizens and minimizing the effects of Brexit (the Liberals reiterated that citizens’ rights will not become bargaining chips, whether it is no deal or any other kind of deal).

Most agreed that everything is now with the UK, but the EU has no intention to reopen the negotiations. The backstop solution must be a workable and credible resolution, this is the only one that ensures the flawless continuity of trade, the integrity of single market that is not up for negotiations: Bilateral solutions between the UK and some member states will not be allowed by the European Parliament. Michel Barnier also underlined that the no deal preparations must continue during the next 10 weeks because of the uncertainty of British politics.

During the parliamentary interventions, there was clear frustration among the MEPs concerning the actions and uncertainty caused by the UK House of Representatives: overall, 10 weeks to go, there is still no clear demonstration of they really want.

Some groups (e.g., the Progressive alliance, Greens, UK Socialists) in the Parliament argue for either the extension of the negotiations – to secure that there is a no no-deal – or people’s vote on whether they want a Brexit or not.

Scottish MEPs unilaterally support staying in the EU and ask for more time to let that happen (i.e. extension of the negotiations). Others (European Conservatives and Reformists) argued for reopening the discussions and accommodate some of the UK concerns. Some Irish representatives want to open a vote on the reunification of Ireland. Nigel Farage (Direct democrats), one of the main Brexiteers, said that in spite of his expectations, there is probably not going to be a no deal. Generally, the UK Freedom Party – with no seats in the UK Parliament – wants no deal.

The Council under the Romanian presidency will make sure that the member states are kept up to date, and it will call for a summit as needed.



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