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Here are 4 possible Brexit outcomes that we could get by 31 October

Let’s spin the wheel of Brexit speculation.

Image: PA Wire/PA Images

BORIS JOHNSON’S PREMIERSHIP hasn’t changed anything so far when it comes to Brexit. 

With the make-up of the House of Commons the way it is, it’s impossible to imagine any Brexit deal that would break the current impasse, backstop or not.

So what’s next?

An early election

Despite the two motions tabled by Boris Johnson failing to get the votes it needed to trigger an election, this still appears the most likely outcome – it’s a matter of the opposition waiting for the best moment to allow an election. 

Under British law, the next election is not due until 2022 and a two-thirds parliamentary majority is required (that’s 434 MPs) if the government wants to hold a vote before that.

Labour abstained on Johnson’s first vote on a snap election date of 15 October, saying parliament should first approve a draft law aimed at preventing a no-deal Brexit, which has now been done.

The party then also rejected a second vote, after internal wrangling between election-eager Labour leader Corbyn with some other top figures within the party who felt they should hold off for even longer.

The reason for the rejection – no deal legislation aside – is that opposition MPs fear that Johnson won’t keep his promise to hold the election on 15 October and warn he may try to delay it until after the Brexit deadline on 31 October. That level of mistrust is a good example of the exact difficulties Johnson will have in getting any possible Brexit deal through the House of Commons.

This may also not be a good time for an election for Labour, which is languishing in the opinion polls. A recent YouGov voting intention survey put the Conservatives down from 35% last week to 32% this week, and Labour from 25% to 23%.

The Lib Dem vote is up from 16% last week to 19% now, and the Brexit Party experienced the same growth: up three points to 14%.

If Labour remains opposed, Johnson could consider other options, such as calling a vote of no-confidence in his own government or introducing a different type of law for an election, both of which only require a simple majority.

Johnson could also resign, which would be another way to trigger a general election. It’s been said that if this did happen, Corbyn could go to the queen to ask for permission to form a government with him as its ‘caretaker’ PM until a general election is held. 

As parliament is prorogued until 14 October, it will be the middle of November at the earliest before we have an election otherwise, as there must be at least 25 working days between when a general election is called and when it happens.

No-deal Brexit

The UK is legally due to leave the European Union on 31 October whether it has agreed a Brexit deal with Brussels or not.

Johnson insists he will not make any more requests to delay Brexit, as it’s been more than three years after British citizens voted to leave the bloc in June 2016. It’s also been reported that other EU nations would be reluctant to acquiesce to another extension request, after the first two bore no fruit (as of yet).

Although Johnson says he wants a deal, he has stepped up preparations for a no-deal exit (which, he has repeatedly argued, will help them to get a deal).

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has argued that the UK would have to return to negotiations in the event of a no-deal Brexit, as some sort of relationship would have to be built between the EU and the UK eventually. So negotiations don’t necessarily end there.

Johnson was accused of suspending the British parliament for five weeks in an attempt to force through a no-deal Brexit behind MPs’ backs. It’s possible that other efforts similar to this will be made by his government in order to make Brexit happen.

A Brexit deal

Boris Johnson has said repeatedly that he wants a Brexit deal. More specifically, he wants to renegotiate the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement agreed by his predecessor Theresa May, which was rejected three times by the UK parliament.

Johnson says that his main objection to the Withdrawal plan is the backstop – a mechanism for keeping an open, friction-less border between Northern Ireland and Ireland in the even that no other solution to do this is found.

The EU and Ireland have remained insistent that the backstop provision must stay, and that it’s up to London to come up with any credible alternative – although Johnson said he has an “abundance of proposals” during his Dublin visit, he didn’t share publicly.

Johnson is pinning his hopes on a 17-18 October EU summit when he believes the threat of a no-deal Brexit will prompt the bloc to make compromises and allow a last-minute agreement. That being said, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has recently said there’s “no reason to be optimistic” that a Brexit deal will be done.

Alternatively, some believe May’s divorce deal could be presented to MPs again. If the Withdrawal Agreement is put to MPs once more, it has a more likely chance of passing – with each vote on the deal, the majority it has been defeated by has decreased.

In the event that the Withdrawal Agreement is passed by MPs, it’s possible that a referendum will be held to ask the people should the UK leave under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement, or should it remain in the EU and revoke Article 50.

Delay to Brexit

The Hilary Benn bill, which is now law, instructs the government to seek to push back the Brexit deadline until 31 January 2020 at the earliest, if it has not reached an EU deal by 19 October – which is after the EU summit.

Ultimately, that decision rests with the 28 EU leaders. The Irish government has said that it would be in favour of another Brexit extension – anything to avoid a hard Northern Ireland border – but has raised concerns that others might not be willing to drag the Brexit timeline out further.

The Benn law says that if a delay is agreed, then the UK government must regularly report to parliament on its progress in negotiations, and if there is still no deal by 31 January, it implies that Brexit would have to be delayed again.

Johnson has warned that the legislation could have the effect of delaying Brexit “potentially for years”, and has said he’d rather be “dead in a ditch” than to ask the EU to grant the UK more time to pass a Brexit deal.

Finally, if there is a Brexit extension, it’s possible that Brexit won’t happen at all – that’s a theory supported by many observers, including the man who first used the term Brexit. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has promised that if he wins power, he will hold a second referendum with an option to remain in the European Union.

It’s both not really a Brexit scenario and unlikely to happen.

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