When the EU granted a delay of more than six months to the Brexit process earlier this year, European Council President said: “Please, do not waste this time!”. Since then, the Prime Minister has entered into cross-party talks with Labour to try find a compromise which would allow MPs to pass her Brexit deal – which they have already rejected three times. But despite talks, no progress has been made, and the clock keeps ticking towards the October 31 Brexit deadline.
The next big Brexit-defining date will come in the first week of June, when MPs will vote on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB).
This isn’t exactly the same as the previous votes on the withdrawal agreement – this time, it’s the bill that lays out the multitude of laws needed to make the Brexit deal a reality.
The chances of the WAB passing in the House of Commons look dismal unless some major breakthrough in the cross-party talks happens before then.
The WAB is a massive document, and many battles are likely to take place on individual details, which could draw the process out even more.
WHAT IF THE WAB PASSES?
If, as is not looking likely, MPs pass the WAB, it would pass into law some of Brexit’s biggest issues, such as the agreement on citizens’ rights, the financial settlement and the details of the transition.
But, if passed, this would allow the UK to leave the EU with a deal as soon as possible.
Under the terms of the EU’s decision at its April 10 emergency Brexit summit, which has the force of law, if both the UK and the bloc ratify the treaty before the appointed day of October 31, “the withdrawal will take place on the first day of the following month”.
That means if the WAB passes in the first week of June, the UK could be out of the EU on July 1.
WHAT IF THE WAB FAILS?
In the more likely scenario, the WAB will fail when MPs vote on it in June.
This leaves us with an uncertain web of possibilities.
It’s likely Theresa May will try continue cross-part talks with Labour, but given the lack of progress, it’s very unlikely to come of anything.
Alex De Ruyter, director of Birmingham City University’s Centre for Brexit Studies, told the Express Online: “Getting the two major parties to come to an agreement over Brexit was always going to be a big ask.
“It should not surprise us if these talks fail, as I predict they probably will
“Parliament will then move to a series of indicative votes over what the next steps should be.
“This is likely to push the UK towards a softer Brexit but beyond this it is quite an unpredictable process.”
There’s also a good chance the failure of the WAB will lead to the removal of Mrs May, one way or another.
Whoever takes her place – a pro or anti-Brexit leader – will have a major bearing on what comes next.
Options include no deal, a hard Brexit, second referendum, a general election, revoking Article 50, or fresh round of negotiations.
Whatever happens, the likelihood of some form of public vote is becoming increasingly likely.
Professor De Ruyter said: “We cannot rule out another public vote on whatever the final outcome is likely to be: when the politicians can’t decide, the people might just have to.”