Short Brexit delay
Prime Minister Theresa May last week agreed to ask the EU to postpone Brexit, after MPs rejected her divorce plan for a second time while also ruling out leaving the bloc with no deal at all.
Her preference was to try to persuade MPs to back her deal in a third vote, before using an EU leaders’ summit on Thursday to ask for a short delay until June 30.
This time would allow the British and European parliaments to pass the legislation necessary for a smooth departure.
That option now appears to have been taken out of her hands by House of Commons Speaker John Bercow, who plays a key role in procedural matters in the chamber.
He ruled on Monday that May could not keep putting the same deal to MPs again and again in the same parliamentary session.
The rules suggest she could try again if she secures further changes from the EU.
Solicitor General Robert Buckland suggested another way around the ruling would be to end the parliamentary session and start a new one, before bringing back the deal – all before March 29.
Longer Brexit delay
If the deal is not approved by Wednesday, May has warned the EU would likely demand a longer delay to Brexit, to allow time to break the political deadlock.
This would involve Britain taking part in European Parliament elections on May 23-26.
The other 27 EU states must agree unanimously on any delay to Brexit, but they are currently divided on how long it might be.
MPs last week voted massively against delaying Brexit in order to hold a second referendum.
It was a blow to ‘People’s Vote’ campaigners who see it as their best way to keep Britain in the EU.
But if Brexit is delayed by many months, the pressure for another public vote is likely to grow.
Despite the House of Commons vote against leaving the EU with no deal, that remains the default option unless MPs can agree on an alternative and EU leaders unanimously agree to granting an extension.
The prime minister says the options are her deal, no deal or to stop the whole Brexit process.
Some Brexit supporters argue that there is nothing to fear from leaving with no deal, saying Britain would be free and still able to trade with the EU on terms set out by the World Trade Organisation.
Others warn that severing 46 years of political, economic and legal ties with the EU overnight would bring huge disruption. They also fear it could potentially upset the peace process in Northern Ireland if new border checks were imposed with Ireland.
Some believe that parliament is so deadlocked that the only way out is another election.
But when in January the main opposition Labour party tried to force a snap election with a vote of confidence in the government, it lost, as Conservative MPs rallied around May.
Short Brexit delay