14 Mar

ABCC Brexit Update – 14 March 2019 - MPs Vote to Reject ‘No Deal’ Brexit

  • In a surprise move on 13 March, MPs voted on two separate amendments to reject a ‘No Deal” Brexit under any circumstances. 
  • Thirteen government ministers defied the government whip by abstaining.
  • The UK is still scheduled to leave the EU on 29 March as the vote is not binding on the Government.
  • MPs will now vote on 14 March on whether to delay Brexit beyond 29 March, by instructing the Government to extend Article 50 (the EU’s secession clause).  Any extension would need the approval of all EU member states.
  • The UK Government said MPs will face the choice of a short extension or a much longer one, possibly of up to two years. 
  • The announcement of a short extension would enable the possibility of PM May holding a third vote on her Brexit deal in the next few days.
  • With the threat of a longer extension, there are hopes among supporters of PM May’s Brexit deal that the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and members of the influential Brexiteer grouping, the European Research Group, could now fall in line behind the deal. 
  • On 12 March, legal advice was published by Attorney General Geoffrey Cox on the most contentious part of May’s Brexit deal – the Northern Irish backstop.  Cox said that while new arrangements ‘reduced the risk’ of the UK being bound to the Northern Irish backstop arrangement , he was unable to guarantee the UK’s ability to leave it unilaterally.
  • Commentators note that in order for the DUP and ERG to support May’s deal, the Attorney General would have to change his legal advice.
  • Last night’s developments follow the House of Commons’ rejection of an amended version of PM Theresa May’s Brexit deal on 12 March by a majority of 149.  (391 votes to 242)
  • Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn responded to the votes by saying that an extension to Article 50 is now ‘inevitable’ and again called for a General Election.
  • A European Commission spokesperson responded to the developments by saying, "There are only two ways to leave the EU: with or without a deal. The EU is prepared for both.”
  • 15 days remain until the UK is scheduled to leave the EU on 29 March 2019.

The ABCC and Brexit

The ABCC will continue to follow these developments closely in the coming weeks.  We look forward to keeping members up to date with the very latest from London and what it possibly means for the Australian-British business community.  

If you would like to receive more frequent Brexit updates or have any questions, please feel free to contact our office on abcc@britishchamber.com.

By Paul O’Hagan

Paul O’Hagan is the ABCC’s General Manager in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia.  Prior to joining the ABCC, Paul was Senior Political and Economic Advisor to the U.S. Government in London, covering Brexit.


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