Prelims cum Mains

The risk of a no-deal Brexit looms large

The news

  • The European Union withdrawal deal/Brexit deal proposed by Prime Minister Theresa May was defeated in the UK Parliament.


Background of Brexit

  • Brexit is a word that is used as a shorthand way of saying the UK leaving the EU – merging the words Britain and exit to get Brexit.
  • A referendum for Brexit was held on in 2016 to decide whether the UK should leave or remain in the European Union.
  • 9% people voted in favour of Leave and won.

The Brexit Process:

  • To leave the EU, UK had invoked Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty which gives the two sides two years to agree on the terms of the split.
  • The UK triggered this process on 29 March, 2017, meaning the UK is scheduled to leave EU on 29 March 2019.
  • After months of negotiation since 29th march 2017, the UK and EU came up with a withdrawal agreement, which was signed in November, 2018.
  • Now, it was for the UK parliament to pass (approve) the deal before the due date to leave the EU.

Brexit deal was rejected by the UK Parliament

  • The Brexit deal (or the withdrawal deal) proposed by PM Theresa May, which contained the terms under which Britain should leave the EU on March 29 this year, was rejected. 

Way forward

  • On the backdrop of rej ection of the Brexit deal, the British government faced a no-confidence motion in the parliament (which was defeated).
  • The situation has become confusing regarding the future of the Brexit, which has pushed the country into uncertainties.
  • The following are the possibilities for the future of Brexit deal.


Possibility 1: Renegotiate the deal

  • May could try to negotiate with the Labour party, and perhaps agree to its plan for a customs union with the EU.
  • The PM could renegotiate the deal with the EU for some concessions, which he/she could take back to the parliamentarians in a renewed bid to get the deal passed.
  • She could also seek for extension/ Postponement of the Brexit.
  • Risks associated:
    • EU has already cleared that the deal would not be renegotiated.
    • Even if EU agrees for little concessions, it is not guaranteed that UK parliamentarians would satisfy with that.
    • Moreover, any renegotiated deal or postponement agreement has to be signed by all 27 member countries, which is again difficult to achieve given the few days left for Brexit.


Possibility 2: Fresh referendum

  • Some suggest there could be an option to conduct fresh referendum.
  • A second referendum could be the only way to persuade the EU side to agree to extend the deadline for Brexit.
  • With less than 75 days to go, this option looks like the only way of avoiding a Brexit with no-deal.
  • Risks associated:
    • If a fresh referendum has to be conducted, the parliament will have to consent to this.
    • However, as of now, this option does not have a support of the majority in Parliament.


Situation 3: General Election

  • Despite winning the no-confidence vote, May could still call for an election in the hope of getting a bigger majority that would help pass her the deal.
  • Risks associated:
    • She did play on this option last year and suffered a setback instead.
    • It is possible that this time, she could be even defeated.


Situation 4: No deal Brexit

  • The current deal has been defeated. If the PM could not find any other alternative, and if does not seeks for extension of Brexit, Britain has to leave the EU without a deal on March 29.
  • There is optimism that no deal exit would not be case, as a large majority in Parliament is against leaving without a deal.
  • Risks associated:
    • If Parliament could not find a way out of the crisis, chaos could follow.
    • Britain may have to get into messy negotiations to strike deals with all EU nations individually.

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