European Union: Brexit – What Happened?

Clients and friends will understand that we have felt unable to circulate a running commentary on Brexit as events have been so fast moving and volatile. However, broadly speaking, our note of October 10th 2018 here (with more background in our note of July 12th 2018 here) predicting that the UK was heading for a soft Brexit remains correct – for the moment.

In particular, both the UK Government and Prime Minister Theresa May survived votes of no confidence in December 2018 and, although the House of Commons has failed to approve the deal agreed between the Government and the EU, the UK Parliament has now passed legislation preventing the UK from choosing to leave the EU without a deal.

A political crisis but not a constitutional crisis

It is worth remembering the way the UK Constitution works. The party with the largest number of MPs forms the Government, either alone if it has a majority in the House of Commons or with others if not; currently the UK Government comprises the Conservative Party with support from the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland. Accordingly, the Government can only survive with the support of a majority of the House of Commons and the Prime Minister is chosen by the governing party rather than elected directly.

The current political crisis has arisen because a significant minority of the ruling Conservative Party want a hard Brexit but a large majority of the House of Commons wants a soft Brexit. Ultimately the House of Commons will win that battle and it is for this reason that the Prime Minister has now "reached across the aisle" to try and forge a consensus with the Labour party. In doing so she is seeking to outvote those in her own party who are refusing to support the deal she has agreed with the EU.

The basic principles of the Constitution therefore continue to operate, albeit clouded by considerable political noise. The Government currently has neither the support of the Conservative Party nor the House of Commons for its deal.

In normal circumstances that would lead to a General Election but that can only be called by a two-thirds majority of the House of Commons. This would require the support of most Conservative Party MPs, who rightly fear losing power if an election were called. Their partners, the DUP, are also unlikely to vote down the Government in a future vote of confidence as they have no desire for a Labour Government led by Jeremy Corbyn.

In addition, under its rules, the Conservative Party cannot launch another vote of no confidence in Prime Minister May until December 2019 – although the political pressure could force her to resign before then. In those circumstances the Conservative activists would select the new leader and Prime Minister from a shortlist of two chosen by Conservative MPs.

In the meantime the stalemate continues.

What just happened?

On April 10th 2019 the EU agreed to extend the deadline for the UK's departure from the EU under what is known as the Article 50 process until October 31st 2019.

There are two other key dates. First, on May 2nd 2019 there are local authority elections across the country which will be the first opportunity for many electors to express their views in a domestic party election. Second, on May 23rd there are elections for the European Parliament. Both major parties will have significant internal challenges in reaching agreement on a manifesto or platform for these elections and they are likely to be highly politically charged.

What might happen now?

There are a number of different possibilities:

  1. The hard Brexiteers concede for fear of losing Brexit altogether and approve the negotiated deal. At the moment there is little sign of this happening but logically it must remain a possibility not least because it would avoid the need for the UK to take part in the European elections. There have been three votes on the Withdrawal Agreement so far and the losing majority has shrunk from 230 to 58. If this happened then Brexit would happen quite quickly on the agreed terms.
  2. The Government agrees a different deal with the Labour party which commands a majority of the House of Commons. History suggests this is unlikely as opposition parties very rarely help support the Government. However, anything is possible in the current circumstances, particularly if that support by Labour could lead to a split in the Conservative Party and improve the chances of a General Election and Labour Government.
  3. A series of indicative votes by the House of Commons leads to an alternative proposal (such as a customs union or joining the EEA). In the last series of indicative votes the proposal for a permanent customs union lost by only a slender majority so there is a possibility that more MPs might coalesce around this option so that it gains a narrow majority.
  4. A confirmatory referendum is called asking the public to choose between the current negotiated deal (or whatever other deal might emerge under options 2 or 3 above) and remaining in the EU. There is certainly logic in a second referendum given Parliament's inability to agree the terms of Brexit and the political impossibility of Parliament overturning the result of the 2016 referendum. There is, however, considerable political risk for the two major parties and no certainty of the outcome: a marginal win for "Remain" might produce an answer but would not resolve the political crisis. On the basis that Parliament has rejected a "no deal" Brexit the only logical question on the ballot paper would be either to approve a Brexit deal agreed with the EU or remain in the EU.
  5. Theresa May resigns and the Conservative Party chooses a new leader. As noted above the Conservative Party rules prevent another challenge against Prime Minister May before December but political pressure could force her to step down during 2019 – indeed she has promised to do so if the current negotiated deal is approved by the House of Commons. In those circumstances the Conservative Party would choose the new leader who would be the new Prime Minister.
  6. A General Election is called. The political chaos could still lead to a General Election to see if a newly elected House of Commons could resolve the Brexit question. However, given the country and the two main parties remain as split on that question as ever, it would appear unlikely that a newly elected Parliament would fare any better in finding a solution.

The outcome remains unclear but we have learned that, for the moment, neither the EU nor the UK are prepared to contemplate a disorderly "no-deal" Brexit and that the mood of the House of Commons continues to be to lean towards a soft Brexit or, possibly, a second referendum. As a result there must be a high chance of a further extension.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions