British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal was rejected for the third time in three years since the referendum on March 29. Lawmakers voted 286 to 344 against the deal, leaving it unclear if the UK would leave the European Union (EU) with a deal. The European Commission (EC) said the UK had time until April 12 to make a decision, else, they would have to leave without a deal.
The UK lawmakers rejected a 585-page EU withdrawal agreement that May had drafted after almost two years of negotiation with the EU. Despite May’s caution that this would likely be the last opportunity for the UK for a Parliament vote on this, lawmakers were unperturbed.
Will indicative voting help the UK decide?
Apart from voting on the withdrawal agreement, the lawmakers had the option of ‘indicative voting,’ where they cast votes on eight different options on how the UK should break-up with the EU. This included a proposal to keep the UK in the EU’s customs union and a proposal for a ‘second referendum.’ Unfortunately, none of the proposals won a majority, weakening the decision-making process further. Some lawmakers even proposed to revoke Article 50 (the mechanism of in EU’s Lisbon Treaty that the UK is using to leave the EU).
The limitation on an indicative voting decision is the fact that May would have to get the EU to agree to the UK’s revised proposal, complicating decision making.
What happens next?
The lawmakers said that they would continue to debate on the eight alternative options proposed through the course of the first week of April. If either of the proposals gets a clear majority on the floor, May could ask the Parliament to choose between her withdrawal agreement and the winner of the indicative voting.
While May has said that she does not intend to lead the UK into a European election, the possibilities seem bright. The only problem – time is ticking. With less than a fortnight to decide the fate of Brexit and pressure from EU members like France, it looks like the UK might leave the EU without a deal.
If May cannot get the Parliament to decide on one of the three options, that is, accepting the withdrawal agreement (ruled out on March 29), getting the lawmakers to choose a deal in the indicative voting (ongoing debate in the UK Parliament) or a second referendum, which has been severely opposed in the past.
Theresa May took over the helm of affairs from former PM David Cameron at the wake of his failure to retain the UK as a member of the EU. Cameron’s resignation in June 2016, shortly after the vote and May’s fierce promise of an attractive deal from the break-up with the EU won her the coveted post. However, with three failures in her three years in office, questions arise on her ability to continue as the Prime Minister. Political commentators think that her resignation seems to be on the cards. The question remains: Will she lead the UK into an early general election or go down fighting for a deal?