WHAT are the possible scenarios which lie ahead?

  • The PM’s Deal: If Theresa May can convince her Cabinet and the Commons to back her plan, and it is approved by the EU 27 and the European Parliament, the UK will take the orderly route to departure next March. This would secure the rights of UK and EU citizens, trigger the £39 billion divorce payment and a transition period would run until December 2020, during which negotiations would take place on future trade relations. If no such deal can be reached in that timeframe the UK would stay in a customs union “backstop”, tied to EU rules and regulations. This would continue until a permanent trade deal is struck or a review mechanism brings the arrangement to an end.
  • No deal: If May’s deal is rejected, the UK would leave without a withdrawal treaty and agreements on citizens’ rights, transition and the divorce bill would lapse. The UK would fall back on World Trade Organisation terms, with tariffs for imports and exports. Some businesses could move out of the UK. Britain could axe EU regulations in areas like environmental and workplace protections.
  • A Second EU Referendum: There are calls for any deal – or a no-deal outcome – to be put to a “People’s Vote” referendum for approval by the public. Organising one at such short notice would probably require delaying the official date of Brexit. A fresh vote is opposed by May.
  • A General Election: Labour’s preferred option, but it would depend on a particular set of circumstances. A vote of no confidence backed by more than half of MPs would force an early poll, but this scenario requires the DUP or high numbers of Tories to turn against the PM and no other leader being able to form an alternative government within 14 days.
  • A new Tory Leader: May is vulnerable to a vote of no confidence in her leadership if 48 Tory MPs request it. To survive, she would need the support of 158 of her MPs, though even if she reaches that number she may be vulnerable.
  • Extend Article 50: The UK leaves on March 29. An extension would require approval from the EU27, which is unlikely to give it for more than a couple of months because of European Parliament elections in May.
  • Break-Up of the Union: Arlene Foster’s DUP believe the UK is under threat and Sinn Fein has said it will call for a border poll in the case of a no-deal outcome. The FM is due to update Holyrood on her plans for indyref2.