Brexit in brief: What happens next?

Anti-Brexit protesters outside the Houses of Parliament in London on Sept 9, as MPs debate.
Anti-Brexit protesters outside the Houses of Parliament in London on Sept 9, as MPs debate.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (BLOOMBERG) - Britain's Parliament closes down, there are honours for former British Prime Minister Theresa May's ex-team and new faces appear on the horizon in Brussels.

WHAT'S HAPPENING?

That's all, folks. The longest session of Westminster's ancient Parliament for almost 400 years ended overnight, after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's second bid to call a general election failed. Parliament is suspended until Oct 14, temporarily unable even to try and solve the Brexit conundrum, and a public vote to try and break the deadlock still seems some way off.

In a way it's fitting. Brexit has already seen off two prime ministers, David Cameron and Theresa May, and Parliament has been unable to approve a path ahead that implements the 2016 vote to leave the European Union. The current political stasis is the culmination of more than three years of tension in Westminster.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

Johnson is now promising to work for a deal with the EU.

He told Parliament overnight that his government "will press on with negotiating a deal, while preparing to leave without one."

Johnson is now legally bound to seek a Brexit delay to avoid a no-deal exit on Oct 31, something he insists he will not do. Without an election, though, he has few options if he plans to comply with the law. He conceded as much in Parliament overnight.

"I will go to that crucial summit in Brussels on Oct 17, and no matter how many devices this Parliament invents to tie my hands, I will strive to get an agreement in the national interest."

The shape of any deal hinges on the now-infamous Northern Ireland "backstop," the mechanism for ensuring no hard border on the island of Ireland. Tory Brexiters are implacably opposed to the current plan, which could keep the UK aligned with EU customs rules.

As Bloomberg's Ian Wishart reported earlier this week, we could be heading back to "Backstop 1.0" - a plan that would keep just Northern Ireland bound to EU rules while a new trade framework is worked out with Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales).

The BBC now reports that this is guiding thinking in Westminster as well as Brussels.

 
 

WILL FRANCE VETO A BREXIT EXTENSION?

Unlikely, but Emmanuel Macron knows how to play Brexit poker too, Lionel Laurent writes for Bloomberg Opinion.

Boris Johnson must face the brutal logic of his choice - either squeeze the Brexit party or countenance a deal with Nigel Farage, Robert Shrimsley writes in the Financial Times.

Parliament doesn't have much to show for its epic 810-day sitting, the Times reports, with little achieved in terms of either Brexit or domestic policy.

STERLING RALLY

The pound rallied to the highest since July after Johnson met Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in Dublin on Monday and emphasized he wanted to get a Brexit deal before next month's deadline. It was trading at US$1.2349 early on Tuesday.

WITHDRAWAL AGREEMENT

Theresa May's former Brexit negotiator, Oliver Robbins, has three reasons to celebrate this morning: It's been confirmed that he will take up an academic post at Oxford University, then a senior position at Goldman Sachs in London - and that his former boss has nominated him for a knighthood in her resignation honours list.

ALLIES REWARDED

Several other key May-era players are also honoured this morning (Sept 10).

Former advisers Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill - sacked after the disastrous 2017 general election - are both made CBEs. May's next chief of staff, Gavin Barwell, becomes a life peer, while there are knighthoods for her former communications chief, Robbie Gibb, and de facto deputy, David Lidington. Current Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith, who as May's chief whip failed three times to shepherd the Withdrawal Agreement through the House of Commons, is also made a CBE.

 
 

THE NEW EU TEAM

Incoming European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen unveils her team this morning. Brexit-watchers will be keen to see who wins the trade portfolio, with the prospect of lengthy UK-EU trade talks looming.

Irish media reports that their commissioner Phil Hogan, a strident critic of UK Brexiters, will get the job. RTE's Tony Connolly reports that Hogan is expected to be joined by Sabine Weyand, who was deputy to Michel Barnier on the EU's Brexit team.

PARTY LIKE IT'S 1979

The pound is in a slump, the government is in open conflict with Parliament, British Airways is on strike and there is talk of nationalising major industries. Garbage is not piling up in streets across the UK, but in some respects, events resemble the dark days of the 1970s. "In many ways it's much worse now," said Steven Fielding, a professor of contemporary British political history at the University of Nottingham. "The Winter of Discontent was a temporary thing that was relatively easily resolved."