Brexit: UK buys time for a third and (maybe) final Brexit vote


The EU27 agreed to extend the Article 50 Brexit date slightly, and even slightly further if the UK passed the Brexit deal through UK Parliament next week. Theresa May, however, still faces challenges in the form of her political opposition in the UK Parliament and now also with the Speaker, Mr John Bercow.

Theresa May pressed EU-27 for an extension and got it

Last week the UK Parliament voted to reject a no-deal Brexit scenario which (narrowly) passed. Additionally, UK Parliament voted to extend the Brexit deadline beyond 29 March 2019.

The extension vote led to Theresa May officially requesting the EU on Wednesday 20 March 2019 to extend the Article 50 Brexit date. She requested that the date instead be set to 30 June 2019. The Brexit date could, however, only be extended if all EU 27-members agree to it. Therefore, on Thursday 21 March 2019, Mrs May travelled to Brussels in an attempt to persuade the remaining EU 27-leaders to postpone Brexit at an EU summit.

Although the EU summit debate went on for over 8 hours, the stance from many EU leaders was clear; the EU wanted some form of assurance that the extension would lead to the deal being agreed to, so that they were not just delaying the inevitable. 

It was finally agreed that Brexit would be extended until 22 May 2019 if the UK Parliament approves the Brexit deal this coming week. If the deal does not gain the support of UK Parliament the delay will be much shorter – only until 12 April 2019. On 12 April 2019, if no deal has been reached, the UK must set out its next steps or leave without a deal. If a No Deal scenario is still a realistic scenario on 12 April, another meeting between the EU27 and the UK is expected.

Theresa May is therefore yet again faced with the challenge of getting her Brexit deal through UK Parliament.

Speaker of the House of Commons

To create further difficulty for Theresa May's Brexit deal, the Speaker of the House of Commons, Mr John Bercow, stated on Monday 18 March 2019 that he will not allow a third vote on the Brexit deal.

The Speaker, among other things, keeps order during debates in the Commons chamber. The Speaker also upholds the procedures for parliamentary debates and quoting the Erskine May guide to parliamentary procedure, Mr Bercow announced that the same question “may not be brought forward again during the same session” and that it was a “strong and longstanding convention” dating back to 1604 and confirmed a number of times since. 

Thus, Mr Bercow's reasoning for not allowing another vote is that the House of Commons may not vote on the same or the substantially same proposition (in this case the Brexit deal) during the same Parliamentary session. The reason that the second vote on 12 March 2019 was not in violation of this rule was because changes which the government considered to be legally binding had been obtained the day before, on 11 March 2019.

The Parliamentary session runs for a year, normally beginning in the spring. Thus, a new vote is only to be expected if there are changes of substance made to the withdrawal agreement. 

In addition to whether Theresa May will now be able to secure political support within UK Parliament, it will also be exciting to see whether Mr Bercow follows through and effectively blocks the UK's final chance at accepting the Brexit deal before the deadline set by the EU27. 

What should companies do in the meantime?

Companies should continue to stay up to date with the latest Brexit developments, but should be ready to tackle a No Deal scenario. In particular, if not already in place, focus should be on the immediate challenges such as delays in logistics, registering for customs, preparing for declaring customs, and informing any contract parties about expected delays.

For elaboration on logistics and customs, reference is made to the following news articles:

If you have questions regarding the risks to which your company is exposed in relation to Brexit, we will be happy to assist and elaborate further.