What next for Brexit after Theresa May’s withdrawal plan is rejected?

MPs rejected Theresa May’s EU Withdrawal Agreement on Friday afternoon by a margin of 58 votes. What happens next?

On Monday, MPs will continue a process of ‘indicative votes’ to try and build a consensus around an alternative to the government’s Brexit plan. Theresa May she would continue to press MPs to pass her deal, and government sources suggested it could end up being put up against the rival option in a runoff vote.

Pressure on remaining Conservative rebels will be ramped up, as will so-far unsuccessful efforts to secure support from Labour MPs in Leave-voting areas, with fresh offers of investment money expected.

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However, if MPs cannot agree on any Brexit outcome, an emergency EU summit has been called for 10 April, where Mrs May will likely be forced to ask for a long delay to Brexit, potentially until the end of the year.

Anti-Brexit campaigners take part in the People's Vote March in London. Pic: Yui Mok/PA WireAnti-Brexit campaigners take part in the People's Vote March in London. Pic: Yui Mok/PA Wire
Anti-Brexit campaigners take part in the People's Vote March in London. Pic: Yui Mok/PA Wire
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The Prime Minister has said Parliament will not allow a no-deal Brexit - but the EU sought to ramp up the pressure following the vote, saying the revised Brexit date of 12 April was the new ‘cliff edge’ for the UK.

What are the options?

On Wednesday, none of the proposals put forward by opposition and backbench MPs got a majority, but a plan for the UK to stay part of the EU customs union came closest, and is likely to be the focus of efforts to find a compromise on Monday.

Next on the list was a second EU referendum, which its supporters want to be applied to whatever Brexit deal emerges from the process.

However, the SNP and other staunch Remain MPs argue that the government should simply revoke Article 50 and stop Brexit altogether if there is still no consensus around a single deal by 12 April.

What about Theresa May?

The Prime Minister had offered to resign before the next phase of talks if her deal was passed. She will now stay on - but perhaps not for much longer. She is unwilling to accept any Brexit delay that forces the UK to take part in EU elections on 23 May. If that becomes inevitable, she may give up the keys to Number 10 anyway and let her successor find some way out of the Brexit maze in the long Article 50 extension period that would follow.

Following the third defeat for her deal, Mrs May told MPs: “I fear we are reaching the limits of this process in this House.” Downing Street says a general election wouldn’t be in the national interest, but any Prime Minister will come up against the arithmetic in the House of Commons unless they go to the polls.