Month: November 2018

All you need to know about the UK leaving the EU: key questions

EU leaders and the UK have approved an agreement which provides for the terms of Brexit. It is a significant moment in European history – the EU’s 28 leaders have approved the “divorce” agreement for the UK to withdraw from the bloc. No member state has ever left the European Union before and this summit – two years and five months after the UK’s Brexit referendum – is a culmination of months of tough negotiation. But is this really the end? BBC News has made an article finally understand all you need to know about the UK leaving the EU: 8 key questions.

What are they agreeing on?

There are two documents.

The withdrawal agreement

The so-called divorce part: a 585-page internationally binding legal text that sets out the terms of how the UK leaves the EU on 29 March 2019.

Importantly it also provides for a transition period which begins the same day Britain leaves and lasts until 31 December 2020, although it could be extended to the end of 2022. And it has a “backstop”, an arrangement that says if the UK hasn’t negotiated a new relationship with the EU by the end of the transition it will stay in the bloc’s customs union, to prevent the need for a border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.

The political declaration

This is the roadmap for the relationship between the UK and EU after Brexit. Much shorter at 26 pages, and not legally binding, the declaration calls for an “ambitious, broad, deep and flexible partnership across trade and economic co-operation, law enforcement and criminal justice, foreign policy, security and defence and wider areas of co-operation”.

It is long on aspiration but very short on detail.

Why is this important for Theresa May?

Apart from the obvious – getting agreement on the two documents – for Theresa May this is all about momentum. She is hoping that the weight of approval by the EU27, including such big names as German’s Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, will convince British politicians this is a very big deal indeed, of international proportions.

When will we know if she is successful?

It’s thought the big vote in the UK Parliament could come sometime in the second week of December.

The numbers don’t look good for Theresa May, do they?

It was US President Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ), who said the first rule of politics was to be able to count.

Although there are 650 MPs, for various reasons some of them, like the Speaker, don’t vote, so the magic number for victory for Mrs May is 320.

But there are only 315 Conservative MPs and the BBC estimates nearly 60 hardline Brexiteers in the party and 14 Remainers are likely to vote against. She also appears to have lost the support of the 10 MPs from the Northern Ireland party she relies on for big votes, the DUP.

And of course all the opposition parties have said they will vote against it.

What are those alternatives if the deal is voted down?

No-one knows for sure, but here are some of the options:

  1. She tries again a few weeks later, hoping MPs will be so worried about the expected turmoil in the financial markets after a no vote that they change their minds
  2. The UK leaves without a deal, which most believe would be catastrophic
  3. A second referendum, which many MPs fear would make Britain even more divided than it is already
  4. Theresa May or another Conservative leader could try for a different deal
  5. Another general election.

What are those alternatives if the deal is voted down?

No-one knows for sure, but here are some of the options:

  1. She tries again a few weeks later, hoping MPs will be so worried about the expected turmoil in the financial markets after a no vote that they change their minds
  2. The UK leaves without a deal, which most believe would be catastrophic
  3. A second referendum, which many MPs fear would make Britain even more divided than it is already
  4. Theresa May or another Conservative leader could try for a different deal
  5. Another general election.

A health warning on such predictions: it’s important to say that if UK politics are already in uncharted waters, a no vote could send them off the navigational map altogether.