WITH UK politics, in particular the politics of the Conservative party and the Government, fracturing more deeply day by day, the way ahead looks highly uncertain and unstable. The March 2019 deadline looms. But, broadly, there are four main scenarios as to where we may get to by the autumn.

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Scenario One: Brexit Goes Ahead
IF Theresa May strikes a deal with the EU and it passes at Westminster – and at the European Parliament and European Council – then the UK will be set to leave the EU on March 29, 2019. This would mean an Irish backstop has been agreed as part of the overarching withdrawal agreement and a political declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship was also agreed. In such a scenario, either the Tory Brexiters and Remainers have all stayed on board and voted for May’s deal or, much less likely, some opposition party votes have helped May through. The extent of economic damage to the UK and the extent of democratic damage through becoming a “rule-taker” will depend on the deal – but there is no harmless deal to be had either economically or politically.

Scenario Two: Deal Falls at Westminster
IF May’s deal with the EU is rejected at Westminster, then the UK will face a major political and economic crisis with substantial turbulence in stock markets and the pound likely to fall sharply. A General Election may need to be called rapidly – perhaps to take place in early 2019. Meanwhile, the Government should then ask the EU for a delay in Article 50 – which in the face of a chaotic no-deal Brexit, the EU may agree to. Either as an alternative to an election or after an election, there may be increased public and political pressure for a further EU referendum.

Scenario Three: No Deal with the EU
IF May is unable to shift closer to EU positions, and at the same time to agree an acceptable Irish backstop, then there may be no deal for Westminster to vote on. Both sides will want to avoid such a chaotic outcome and the question of extending Article 50 may come up if there is no agreement on a deal by the end of 2018.

In the face of no deal, there will be pressure from the public and at Westminster for a solution to the ensuing crisis – whether for a General Election, a further EU referendum or a new negotiating approach to the EU.

Scenario Four: The UK stays in the EU
THIS scenario could result from a range of developments. Depending on how turbulent UK politics becomes in the coming weeks and months, there might be a majority (where there isn’t now) at Westminster to hold a further EU referendum – whether a repeat referendum or one on a deal if it has been struck. Or, such a referendum might be a condition of LibDem support for a minority Labour government after a General Election – though it would probably need SNP support for such a position too. Public opinion might shift sharply towards Remain, both increasing pressure for a further vote and leading to a clear Remain result in such a vote. Political divisions in England in particular would nonetheless continue. Politically, the EU would need to support such an outcome.

OVERALL, it is clear that unless May produces a deal that gets backing at Westminster, then political volatility and divisions will continue probably resulting in a General Election and a request to extend Article 50 and possibly a further EU referendum. If a deal does pass at Westminster, the UK will be embarking on a path towards marginalisation in Europe, to less global influence, and to economic self-harm. Domestic political divisions would continue as EU-UK talks moved on to the future relationship – and as the Irish backstop remained as one possible route ahead.

In Scotland, pressures for a further independence referendum would probably grow. Staying in the EU looks like the sanest path but political divisions in England in particular would remain deep.

There is no easy escape route for the UK from its turbulent Brexit path – and the English populist genie that the 2016 referendum let out will not easily go back in its bottle.