There are 11 possible outcomes following UK prime minister Theresa May’s failure to win over MPs with a series of last-minute changes agreed with the European Union.
On Tuesday night (12 March) members of parliament voted against the deal by 391 votes to 242 — a majority of 149 votes — in yet another humiliating defeat for the prime minister over Brexit.
But the path ahead for Britain has become a lot more complicated. As May said in her speech, following her deal being rejected in parliament again, politicians will now have to pick from “unenviable choices,” such as a delay to Brexit, a second referendum, or a no-deal Brexit, “thanks to the decision the House has made this evening they must now be faced.”
Option 1: MPs vote for a no-deal Brexit
If politicians vote for a no-deal that means the UK will leave the bloc on 29 March without any rules or regulations in place to replace those that were in place during the EU membership. That is the worst case scenario for the economy because no one will know how to operate in the vacuum of no distinct rules and regulations governing trade or immigration.
The Bank of England said previously that a no-deal Brexit — also known as a hard Brexit and means no transition period — will be worse than a global financial crisis. In its worst-case Brexit scenario, the UK economy could shrink by about 8% within a year. That fall would be the worst the country has seen since the 1920s. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) also warned that Brexit is one of the biggest risks for global financial stability.
Yesterday, MPs released a report saying that the UK government’s preparations for a no-deal Brexit have been “rushed”, “risky,” and “over-optimistic.” The influential public accounts committee said it is not convinced government departments are ready to leave the European Union on 29 March without a deal.
Today, the government outlined its plans to slash a majority of tariffs to zero in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Option 2: MPs vote to reject a no-deal Brexit
If MPs decide that Britain cannot crash out of the EU without a deal, that will lead to a third vote on Thursday on whether Brexit needs to be delayed in order to secure a new deal.
Option 3: MPs reject delaying Brexit
If parliament rejects extending Article 50, therefore delaying Brexit, Britain will leave the EU on 29 March without a deal anyway.
Option 4: Parliament votes to delay Brexit
If parliament votes to extend Article 50, that leads to seven other potential outcomes for Britain.
An extension to Article 50, however, has been something the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier has said is unavoidable and that a “technical extension” of up to two months beyond the 29 March deadline is likely to happen.
Option 5: UK renegotiates with the EU
This is something that was voted on after May’s deal was first rejected earlier this year.
However, late on Monday this week, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said “it’s this deal or Brexit might not happen at all.” May would also have to battle against finding any deal that satisfies an increasingly fractious parliament. It’s not as simple as sating the desire of Remain versus Leave supporters — there are some that don’t mind crashing out of a deal, there are some that want a similar deal to what the UK has now, and there are some that want a second referendum.
Option 6: Second referendum
A second referendum is a distinct possibility. May said in her statement last night, following her deal defeat: “Let me be clear. Voting against leaving without a deal and for an extension does not solve the problems we face. The EU will want to know what use we mean to make of such an extension.
“This House will have to answer that question. Does it wish to revoke Article 50? Does it want to hold a second referendum? Or does it want to leave with a deal but not this deal?”
There has been growing appetite for a second Brexit referendum from professionals and the public.
Nearly three quarters of working professionals demanded a second Brexit vote in December and 75% say they would then vote to remain in the EU. Hundreds of thousands of people marched in favour of another Brexit vote while analysts have said that a second referendum is likely to happen.
Option 7: Another general election
There is the option that politicians decide that another general election is needed in order to potentially replace May and her cabinet but put the decision to the people. One of the biggest criticisms has been over the Conservative party’s ability to score a deal amid infighting between hardline Brexiteers, softer Leavers, and reluctant Remainers.
Option 8: Vote of no-confidence
Another vote of no-confidence could, again, see the unseating of the government. May has already survived a rebellion from within her party and a parliament-wide government vote of no-confidence.
Option 9: Another vote on May’s deal
Politicians could end up mulling over all the choices and decide May’s deal is the best compromise all factions of parliament can get.
Option 10: No-deal anyway
After all this, MPs could vote to just have a no-deal Brexit anyway — just beyond the original 29 March deadline from before.
In December last year, the European Court of Justice ruled that Britain can cancel Brexit without the permission of the other 27 EU members. The ECJ also said that by cancelling Brexit, there would be no alterations to Britain’s current membership to the bloc of remaining 27 nations.
Option 11: Brexit cancelled
Last, but no least, Brexit could be technically cancelled.