Brexit Vote Trilogy: Predictions and Observations
A surprise outcome in the key votes in the UK parliament this week is unlikely.
- A surprise outcome in the key votes in the UK parliament this week is unlikely.
- Now that parliament has a means to delay Brexit, MPs that might have backed May’s deal this time around to avoid a hard Brexit have no incentive to do so.
- May could be forced to allow parliament to hold indicative votes on the customs union model, the Norway plus model, or even a second referendum.
In three votes in three days — beginning on Tuesday 12 March — the House of Commons is likely to:
1. reject Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal,
2. reject a hard Brexit, and
3. support a delay to Brexit – currently planned for 29 March 2019.
Such a pattern of votes would demonstrate that the UK parliament, having looked over the hard Brexit cliff-edge, has decided to swerve away from that option for now.
Surprise ahead? Probably not
There are four reasons why the risk of a surprise outcome in the key votes this week is low:
On Theresa May’s deal
1. As May has not managed to get the EU to agree to a time limit or unilateral exit mechanism on the contentious Irish backstop, Brexit hardliners in the Conservative Party plus the Northern Irish DUP — who voted down May’s deal on 15 January — have said they will not back the deal this time around either.
2. Now that parliament has a means to seek a Brexit delay, moderates and pro-EU MPs from all parties that might have backed May’s deal this time around to avoid a hard Brexit, have no such incentive to do so.
On a hard Brexit
3. In a symbolic vote on 29 January, a majority in parliament voted against a hard Brexit. It would be odd if parliament did not repeat this result on Wednesday.
On a delay
4. If parliament did not support a delay to Brexit it would imply that May and her advisers had wildly misread the calculus in parliament. May gave MPs a vote on a delay because she feared that MPs would force this upon her.
UK backs a delay, then what?
If parliament votes down May’s deal for a second time, we doubt that it will allow May to push on with her negotiations with the EU without giving MPs a chance to see if they can build a majority around an alternative to May’s deal.
May could be forced to give parliament the opportunity to hold indicative votes on alternatives such as the customs union model, the Norway plus model, or even a second referendum.
It is unclear whether this will happen before the UK submits its request to the EU for an extension or after.
The Lords’ initiative
On 6 March 2019, the House of Lords — on the basis of a cross-party majority — voted in favour of the UK negotiating a customs union with the EU. The House of Commons will need to vote on this policy before 29 March 2019.
There is a good chance that the House of Commons will back this deal (35%). It is also Labour’s preferred solution.
Meanwhile, moderates in the Conservative Party – possibly including some Brexiteers – could back it on the basis that it delivers on Brexit by removing the UK from major parts of the EU, including on budget and migration policies, while protecting the UK industrial sector from the economic consequences of Brexit.
For our probabilities on other Brexit outcomes see the chart below.