Wrapping up on another intense Brexit week

3.15.2019

Following legally binding amendments to the Brexit deal reached with the EU Monday, the British Parliament experienced a week of consecutive Brexit votes, resulting in a decision to try to extend the Brexit deadline beyond 29 March 2019. In this article, we explore the events of the past week and share some of the valuable latest legal developments.

Amendments to the Brexit deal

On Monday, 11 March 2019, Theresa May returned from negotiations with the EU in Strasbourg with changes to the Brexit deal. Most notably, the changes revolved around the so-called 'Irish backstop', an arrangement that seeks to ensure that the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland remains open. The arrangement has been heavily criticized because it entails a risk that UK would remain in the customs union after 31 December 2020 when the deal is set to lapse. Theresa May has stated that the changes mean that the EU "cannot try to trap the UK in the backstop indefinitely", however, the attorney general, Geoffrey Cox, only concluded that such risk had been reduced. 

A week of Brexit votes 

During Tuesday through Thursday, the Parliament voted on several possible Brexit scenarios of which we have chosen to highlight the following:

  • On Tuesday, the Parliament voted on Theresa May's withdrawal agreement following the changes reached in negotiations. The vote failed with 391 of 633 MPs voting against the amended deal. Notably, the margin of 149 was smaller than the vote on the original deal, which failed with a margin of 202. 

  • On Wednesday, the House of Commons voted on the possibility of a no-deal Brexit. With a narrow vote of 312 to 308, MPs voted to reject a no-deal Brexit under any circumstances. The market responded positively to this decision and the pound gained ground towards the EUR and USD. 

  • On Thursday, the Parliament voted to extend the Brexit deadline beyond 29 March 2019. Five amendments to the motion were voted on which all failed. Most notably, an amendment seeking a second Brexit referendum was defeated by a large margin. Following the amendments, the main motion without amendments on delaying Brexit was passed by 413 votes to 202. Thus, Theresa May will now ask the EU for an extension of the deadline under article 50, but such extension will only be given if all EU member states votes in favor hereof.

The EU member countries are to meet 21 March to decide on such request, and it is assumed that such extension is only approved if "a credible justification for a possible extension and its duration" is provided by UK.

Focus on the possibility of a no-deal scenario 

Following the amendments to the Brexit deal on Monday, the Danish Customs Agency and the Danish Tax Agency has released a booklet (in Danish) on the importance of a no-deal scenario in relation to taxes, customs, and more, and has begun contacting companies directly to issue guidance on the preparations on a no-deal Brexit. 

Read the Brexit booklet (in Danish)