So, what actually happened in the Brexit process this week?

The phrase ‘crunch time’ has been vastly overused during the Brexit process, but with two weeks to go until the UK is scheduled to leave the EU, this week was a particularly significant one.

This week saw three days of important Brexit votes. The first vote on Tuesday saw MPs reject Theresa May’s negotiated Brexit deal in Parliament for the second time by 149 votes. Those MPs who voted against her deal included the DUP and the Brexit supporting ERG group.

This then led onto the next vote on Wednesday, where MPs voted to reject leaving the EU without a deal; essentially avoiding a no-deal Brexit. Whilst there is political support for avoiding a no-deal Brexit, it is important to note that this vote is not legally-binding and the UK could still technically crash out of the EU without a deal on 29 March by default in the absence of any alternative arrangements.

The third significant vote took place on Thursday with Parliament voting to seek an extension of Article 50 to delay the UK leaving the EU beyond 29 March. It is not yet clear how long this extension would be and will depend on a further vote on May’s negotiated deal (for the third time) next week. A delay could be from anywhere between 3 and 21 months. It is important to note that the UK government will need to have the unanimous agreement of the EU27 for an extension of Article 50.

As well as the government motion on Thursday, there were also a number of amendments voted on. One of these was for a second referendum which was defeated in parliament 334-85, with Labour MPs being ordered to abstain (however a number rebelled against these orders with 24 voting in favour of the referendum and 17 voting against). Another amendment on giving MPs the opportunity to take control of the process by holding a series of indicative votes on different ways forward for the Brexit process was also defeated.

Meaningful vote 3.0 on May’s Deal

So now that Parliament has voted to extend Article 50 and delay Brexit, how long will this delay be?

This will need to be decided ahead of an EU Council Summit on Thursday 21 March to which the UK government will have to submit a formal request for an extension of Article 50.

May has advised that she will now bring her negotiated deal back to Parliament for the third time on Tuesday 19 March. Between now and then, May will try to win over support for her deal from the DUP and ERG. If her deal passes, May has advised she would seek an extension of three months from the EU so as to ensure appropriate legislation can be put in place. However, if May’s deal is rejected by parliament again on Thursday, she may then seek a longer extension beyond three months (unknown for how long, or what would happen in this time). An extension beyond three months would mean that the UK would have to participate in the upcoming European Parliament elections in May. European Council president Donald Tusk has expressed support for backing for an extension beyond three months, however whether this view is shared across all the leaders of the EU27 is not clear as it has been cited that there are concerns about the ongoing focus on Brexit in the EU agenda whilst there are other pressing issues.

With two weeks until 29 March, it is still not clear when or how the UK will leave the EU and what the future relationship will look like. Both Labour and Conservative remain fractured on how to proceed at this stage and next week is set to be another week of decisive votes.


Further Information:

More details on what happened this week and what will happen next:

Advice from on how civil society organisations can prepare for Brexit:

As part of the Imagine Festival, NICVA will be hosting a timely event- ‘Is globalisation our friend or foe in today’s world and will tomorrow’s world be global or neo-nationalist?’  for more details and to register click here-



NICVA Brexit Articles Timeline

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