After both of Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deals failed to pass in parliament, British MPs must now decide whether they will leave the European Union (EU) with a deal on May 22 or vote on April 12 to delay Brexit further.
EU leaders have already agreed to an extension on Brexit. They said if the UK approves a Withdrawal Agreement by March 29, the country will exit by May 22.
However, if the UK fails to secure a deal by then, parliament will reconvene on April 12; this time to vote on whether it should push back the Brexit deadline again.
“I cannot commit to the government the outcome of any votes held by this House, but I do commit to engaging constructively with this process,” said May in the House of Commons on Monday, March 25.
The MPs have already said they are against leaving the EU without a deal. PM May also said she’s firm on delivering a Brexit deal to UK’s public, quashing talks of a second referendum.
She added that her deal will be a fair compromise for all parties if the House supports it.
“I know the deal I’ve put forward is a compromise… But if this House can back it, we’ll be out of the EU in less than two months,” she said.
Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn asked May to accept her deal is dead and not put it through another vote.
What is the House voting on now?
The House of Commons is considering three amendments.
The first motion by MP Oliver Letwin takes away the government’s power to control daily business. Letwin’s idea is that the House won’t have the power to discuss general governance on Wednesday, March 27. It can only debate versions of Brexit plans.
This means that on Wednesday, MPs will conduct a series of “indicative votes” that are essentially rounds of voting on different Brexit plans.
Letwin said, “The purpose of this cross-party amendment is to enable the House to debate and vote on alternative ways forward if the PM’s Brexit deal is not approved by Wednesday.”
Suggested by Corbyn, the second amendment notes that there are alternatives to May’s Brexit deal; it asks for sufficient time in parliament to discuss those options. He also said the final Brexit deal should be put to a public vote.
MP Margaret Beckett put forth the third amendment under consideration. It says if the UK reaches the week of the exit deadline without a deal, the House must either delay again or vote on whether the UK will leave without a deal.
Beckett’s proposal saw rejection, albeit with a narrow margin—314 against and 311 for.
Letwin’s amendment passed with 327 for and 300 against. So, on Wednesday, British MPs will gather to discuss and vote on different versions of Brexit deals.
The BBC explains that traditional UK parliamentary procedure ensures MPs needn’t vote on the same question twice.
This means unless May amends her previous deals or renegotiates a new one, MPs won’t vote on their colleagues’ alternatives.
Unless MPs decide on a deal or extend the deadline again in a vote on April 12, the country will have no choice but to exit the EU by May 22.
Votes leading up
On March 14, British MPs decided to extend the deadline for Brexit, pending formal EU approval of the same.
“We take note of tonight’s votes. A request for an extension of Article 50 requires the unanimous agreement of all 27 Member States. It will be for the European Council (Article 50) to consider such a request, giving priority to the need to ensure the functioning of the EU institutions and taking into account the reasons for and duration of a possible extension. President Juncker is in constant contact with all leaders,” an EU spokesperson said soon after the vote.
The MPs voted against another referendum as well, implying that Brexit will definitely happen.
Impact on India
Indian businesses and investments are currently in an uncertain position because there is still no clarity on what economic relations between the UK and EU will look like.
As the UK was part of the Single Market, it served as a barrier-free economic gateway for the 27 Schengen countries for Indian businesses; that, however, might change soon.
The Economic Times reports that the 800 Indian companies and 110,000 employees operating in the UK are at risk in the absence of a favourable trade deal. From pharmaceuticals to telecommunications, Indian businesses benefit from a Brexit deal, rather than a no-deal situation.
ET also describes concerns over South Asian minorities living in the UK who may become targets of white supremacists if Brexit fails because those who campaigned to leave did so on an anti-immigration platform.
However, this situation presents India with an opportunity to clear a path for itself by negotiating customised trade deals with both the UK and EU, especially Free Trade Agreements.
A clear-cut Indian policy on Brexit will provide much-needed security to Indian nationals and businesses in the region.
Rhea Arora is a Staff Writer at Qrius.