It is worth remembering that the withdrawal agreement has now been negotiated and is broadly agreed on all sides, what is causing the issue, is what the state of the relationship should be, once the withdrawal period comes to an end. Whilst this is as of yet unclear, in order to avoid a no-deal Brexit, now is the time for Parliament to decide. To do this, the following steps are necessary:
- Once Parliament rules out a no deal, the next step would be to request an Article 50 extension.
- Given the withdrawal agreement is concluded, the EU will refuse that extension unless the UK can outline why the extension is necessary.
- In order to therefore obtain the extension, Parliament will need to table a series of votes (ideally without whips) to see which outcomes support the confidence of the commons, where the options on that would be:
- Permanent single market membership + customs union. (EFTA + Customs)
- Another referendum
- The TM deal (with more refinements)
- At that point, if nothing else succeeds, the policy of the Labour party is that they would support the Theresa May deal, but only if it wins another referendum, at which point the UK requests an Art 50 extension to allow this to happen.
- Alternatively, if one of the other options succeeds, the UK passes the withdrawal agreement and ends up leaving the EU on March 29th after all.
At this point, the outcome is unclear, but one thing the UK should be thankful for is the independent court case, that clarified that the UK could revoke Article 50 unilaterally. What that means is, that regardless of the political challenges, in the event the UK makes the decision to do another referendum, as a worst case, the Government could revoke Art 50, call another referendum on the TM deal with remain being the counter option and leave straight after on the basis of the withdrawal agreement if the decision is to leave, regardless of what any official or country within the EU thinks.
With that in mind, one could say, Parliament remains sovereign with all options open. Roll on March 29th…