Brexit: What happens next?

November 15, 2018, By

Firstly, may I congratulate you on starting to read this article. Brexit has been an inescapable news item for the last 2 years and we’re reaching somewhat of a crescendo in the coverage. However in spite of all this, you have still decided to take time out of your busy day to find out what’s next for Brexit.

Either you’re a truly concerned citizen or a glutton for punishment, either way, let’s get on with it…

The current position

A draft withdrawal agreement (AKA the Divorce Deal) has now been agreed by UK/EU negotiators and the Cabinet.

Whilst that sounds like good progress, we have already seen a number of ministers resign over the contents of this agreement. Given that it was only published last night, it’s safe to assume that more resignations will follow as MPs gradually work their way through 585 pages of cautious, and heavily negotiated, legal wording.

But anyway, it is a potential deal and so, like it or not, the Brexit march can continue.

Next steps

A summit of the EU27 leaders has been hastily arranged for 25 November. The draft withdrawal agreement will be formally considered by the leaders and their sign-off will be requested. Although this is by no means guaranteed, the EU has been rather unified of late and it’s generally expected that they will approve that draft agreement.

However, after this comes a far greater hurdle; a vote in the House of Commons. This is expected to take place in the early part of December and Mrs May will need to secure the approval of a majority of MPs in order to proceed.

But, given that Brexit is the political equivalent of Marmite, most MPs are either ardent Remainers or forthright Brexiteers. The problem with this is that Mrs May’s deal is a halfway-house which, rather unhelpfully, seems to repel both sides of the divide.

What will happen if the UK Parliament approves the draft withdrawal agreement?

If Parliament approves the draft agreement, the “EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill” will be introduced in early 2019 and the EU Parliament will cast its votes.

Only a simple majority is required and then the Bill will go before the EU Council. In this vote, 20 countries, representing at least 65% of the population, must agree. If they do, the UK will leave the EU on 29 March 2019 and the transition period will kick in. This is due to last for 2 years although an extension is entirely possible.

What will happen if the UK Parliament doesn’t approve the draft withdrawal agreement?

If MPs can’t agree on the current draft of the withdrawal agreement then things start to get pretty tricky. Firstly, the UK government will have 21 days to put forward a new plan – although, given that the last plan took 2 years to formulate, 3 weeks sounds like a rather tight deadline.

Next, if a new plan can’t be agreed, we enter into a period of extreme uncertainty. What will actually happen is anyone’s guess however there are four potential options:

1.       The UK leaves the EU with no deal (potentially causing a huge economic crisis);

2.       There is an attempt to re-negotiate the deal (this sounds like a sensible option however its chances of success are limited);

3.       A general election is called (this will require the consent of Conservative MPs, given the probable outcome, this is not likely to be granted); or

4.       Another referendum is held (depending on which side of the argument you’re on, this is either The People’s Vote or The Loser’s Vote).

So, a rather difficult picture all round.

However, fear not, whether it’s reviewing your intellectual property portfolio or auditing your EU contracts, our expert lawyers can advise on exactly what you need to do to get Brexit ready. Just email [email protected] to get in touch.

Written by Will Miles

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