With just a week to go before the originally established exit date of the United Kingdom from the European Union of 29 March, the situation looked still very uncertain when this week started. The week opened with the news that on Sunday 17 March, Prime Minister Theresa May attempted once again to have her Withdrawal Agreement backed by the House of Common on Tuesday 19 March. She stressed the fact that the alternative would be to temporarily remain in the European Union and even participate in the European Parliamentary elections in May, or even never leave the European Union at all. The goal was to find a way to pass the Brexit deal before the European Council on Thursday.
However, on 18 March the Speaker of the House, John Bercow ruled out May’s third attempt to pass her Brexit deal, claiming that it was not possible to vote again on the same deal in that session of Parliament. “What the government cannot legitimately do is resubmit to the House the same proposition, or substantially the same proposition,” he said, citing precedent dating back to 1604. May had hoped to win last-ditch approval for her plan by Wednesday, before heading to the European Council meeting in Brussels seeking a short technical delay to Brexit until 30 June.
Following a day of cross-party talks on 20 March, Prime Minister May spoke to the public and said people were “tired of infighting and political games” and it was “high time” politicians made a decision on the next steps. Earlier that day, May wrote to EU Council President Donald Tusk requesting to delay Brexit until 30 June.
EU leaders, however, decided differently, granting extensions for two possible scenarios. If the House of Commons passes the Brexit deal in the coming days (the third meaningful vote is expected on 26 March), the UK will have until 22 May to complete its withdrawal from the EU. However, if the deal does not pass, EU leaders decided to move the cliff-edge from 29 March to 12 April. By that date, Donald Tusk indicated in its press conference that Theresa May will need to “indicate the way forward”, leaving all options still open. Beyond 12 April, the UK would need to state if it participates in the European Parliamentary elections, which will be necessary if the UK asks for a longer extension.
In the meantime, while May ruled out revoking Article 50, which would cancel Brexit, a public petition to stop Brexit has reached over two million signatures.
What is next?
MPs are expected to vote for a third time on the Brexit withdrawal deal next week, 26 March, despite Commons Speaker John Bercow saying what is put forward must be substantially different to be voted on. And the ball is still rolling…