Three scenarios for Brexit

Protesters with European Union and British flags painted on their faces seen ahead of an EU summit in Brussels, Belgium, on Thursday.
Protesters with European Union and British flags painted on their faces seen ahead of an EU summit in Brussels, Belgium, on Thursday.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • The following are the three main scenarios for Brexit:

NO-DEAL EXIT: The chaos in London is such that Parliament rejects Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal for a third time next week and Britain exits without a deal shortly after April 12.

This is the nightmare scenario for many businesses: it would spook financial markets and dislocate supply chains across Europe and beyond. The political and social impact is unclear.

In effect, the European Union has now put the onus back on Britain, which must decide by April 12 whether to participate in EU elections as part of a long-term rethink, or prepare to quit by May 22, or possibly in June, without a deal. So if Mrs May's deal fails again, the risk of an accidental no-deal exit shoots up unless Parliament can find another option - effectively usurping the Prime Minister and her government.

It is still unclear when Parliament will vote on her deal, but this is most widely expected to take place on Tuesday. No-deal means there would be no transition, so the exit would be abrupt.

BREXIT WITH A DEAL: Mrs May gets her deal approved on the third try and Britain leaves in an orderly fashion on May 22. Or Mrs May loses, and Parliament grabs control and comes up with something different.

If Mrs May's deal fails, or if another vote on the same deal is prevented, Parliament could take control of Brexit before April 12, seeking a closer relationship with the EU by staying in its customs union.

If Mrs May's deal is defeated on Tuesday, this could happen on Wednesday.

STOPPING BREXIT: Mrs May's deal fails and Parliament decides to revoke the Article 50 divorce notice or demand another referendum. Or Mrs May falls and a national election is called.

European leaders have repeatedly raised the possibility of Britain revoking Article 50, which Mrs May has repeatedly said she will not do.

Another option is to call a referendum. In government, there are worries that a second referendum would exacerbate the deep divisions exposed by the 2016 vote, alienate millions of pro-Brexit voters and stoke support for the far right.

It is not clear how Britain would vote. And if it did vote to remain, Brexit supporters might demand a third and decisive vote.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 23, 2019, with the headline 'Three scenarios for Brexit'. Subscribe