In, out, or limbo: Brexit end-game scenarios
LONDON, United Kingdom – The tortuous Brexit saga is culminating in a crunch week that either sends Britain sailing nervously out of Europe – or sets the stage for it staying put.
The House of Commons will hold up to 3 votes between Tuesday and Thursday, March 12 and 14, as the March 29 Brexit date races in.
Their outcome will ultimately determine the future of a 46-year relationship which Britons voted to end at a 2016 referendum, surprising much of Europe.
The idea of Prime Minister Theresa May's deal with Brussels making its way through parliament seemed fanciful when MPs voted against it by a historic margin last month.
But Tuesday's vote on essentially the same set of proposals should be a closer affair whose outcome hinges on last-gasp talks with the European Union (EU).
Two factors are suddenly playing in May's favor.
One is that Brexit backers are gradually realizing that May might be offering their best – and quite possibly last – chance to split from the bloc.
And EU officials would like to see Britain's status settled by the time the newly-elected European Parliament throws open its doors in July.
This might make EU bosses offer a last-minute concession that is just good enough to convince parliamentary holdouts to back May's plan.
London bank strategists surveyed by Bloomberg put the chances of the agreement being approved by the end of March at 37%.
May last month upturned her strategy that "no deal is better than a bad deal" by offering parliament a chance to take the dreaded "no-deal" Brexit off the table.
A vote on whether Britain should leave without the so-called Withdrawal Agreement will happen on Wednesday, March 13, if the deal itself is voted down the day before.
May had long argued that fear of Britain simply crashing out should be used as motivation for getting everyone to rally around her plan.
But the idea of trade routes clogging up and the UK pound crashing were too much for a growing faction of May's team to bear.
More and more have openly spoken of rebelling if Britain is headed for that outcome.
The parliamentary vote would only be advisory – but carry plenty of political weight.
Bloomberg's bankers now put the odds of a "no-deal Brexit" at less than one in 10.
The third vote on Thursday, if the first two have been rejected, would tell May to ask EU leaders to approve a delay of Britain's departure date.
May has spoken of a possible delay until the end of June but the Financial Times said some lawmakers are thinking much longer – 9 to 21 months.
The Guardian said the longer option was also backed by Brussels, although it leaves the prickly question of whether Britons would get to vote in European Parliament elections in May.
EU leaders have the final say on whether there should be any delay – making their March 21-22 summit in Brussels particularly significant.
The bankers put the odds of Brexit being postponed at 54%.
What such a delay might be used for is one of Brexit's great unknowns.
There are few reasons to think the different sides will suddenly stumble on a solution that had evaded them during two previous years of talks.
But two forces are expected to spring into action: groups backing a much closer EU-UK union – and ones that simply want to call the whole thing off.
Demands for a second referendum rang out the moment EU skeptics narrowly won the first.
Polls show Britons still sharply divided about both Brexit and the democratic merits of holding another vote.
A second poll would also take a long time to organize and require parliamentary support.
May's adamant refusal to back one means there would probably need to be a change in government and possibly early elections.
And few London bankers dare to put any odds on what might happen then. – Rappler.com