Brexit Day 2019 ….when?

Only two days before the original Brexit Day, March 29 2019, Parliament passed government legislation to delay Brexit.
The vote to delay – 441 to 105 – approved Prime Minister Theresa May’s acceptance of the EU’s dates given in their response to her request for a delay.

Mrs. May again attempted to get approval for her withdrawal agreement but she lost 344 against to 286 for –  and then was widely reported to be trying for a fourth vote.

Members of Parliament voted twice on options for dealing with the deeply divisive Brexit issue. They were unable to find a majority in their second try on April 1 after narrowing the options from eight to four from their first votes on March 27 in a series of “indicative votes”.

Before her Brexit Day vote loss, Mrs. May spent the week scrambling to secure support – even promising to resign once Brexit “is delivered” and widely suspected of trying to offer more money to Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to get them on board.
She did convince several key Brexiters but not the DUP which had so far propped up her government by providing a slight majority in Parliament.

The Speaker of the House of Commons ruled she could not bring back the same deal for another vote after losing twice as it had to show “substantial change” – so Mrs. May offered only the withdrawal agreement half of her deal for the Brexit Day vote. But not the political declaration which purported to lay out the future direction of talks with the EU but was not in any way legally binding on either side. 

The latest political manoeuvring came after what many reporters predicted would be a historic week in Parliament.
A look at both British newspaper headlines and the European press reflected the confusion.

In three key votes starting on March 12, Parliament:
– decisively rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s deal to withdraw from the EU.
 – voted to stop withdrawal from the EU without a deal, at any time but that vote was not legally binding.
– voted to delay Brexit past March 29 – but there was ambiguity about the result.

The UK was required by law – Article 50 – to leave the EU on March 29 until the government changed that law by requesting an extension or revoking it.
So even though Parliament narrowly voted – 312-308 – to reject withdrawing without a deal that vote did not change the law.

The vote overturned Mrs. May’s plan to restrict this vote specifically to the March 29 date and leave open the option of a no-deal Brexit at any other time.
It forced a rewording of the government’s motion to clearly reject no deal at any time and another vote which then passed it 321-278.

The next day Parliament overwhelmingly voted to extend the Article 50 deadline of March 29 – but again the Prime Minister chose her words carefully. Her motion – approved 413-202 – called for a short extension until June 30 if her withdrawal deal was approved.
She said if her deal was rejected again she would need to seek a longer extension. And in the end the EU gave her two new dates, both earlier than she had requested.

So the prime minister kept trying to win support for her deal in a third vote, hoping to keep the MPs who had so far voted for it and convince enough more to get it passed. She needed another 75 in addition to all the MPs who had voted for it the previous time and pressured hardline Brexiters in her own Conservative party and the DUP to stop voting against her.

The votes came after two weeks of trying to get further changes to her deal aimed at meeting the Brexiters objections.
But that failed when her own attorney general gave his legal opinion that the additions did not stop the UK being “trapped” in an Irish backstop arrangement although they did reduce that risk – and the hardline Brexiters’ legal team said her deal was not substantially changed enough.

Brexit supporters objected to the “backstop” – designed to keep an open border in Ireland if the UK and the EU could not agree on a trade deal in the next few years – because they feared it could stop the UK from ever leaving the EU.

Both the DUP, which gave Mrs. May a working majority in Parliament, and the European Research Group of Conservative Brexiters advised their members to vote against the deal.

MPs approve government legislation to delay Brexit
Prime Minister loses third vote
MPs unable to find majority
First votes “indicative” votes
Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP)
Reporters predict historic week
British newspaper headlines
European press
Parliament rejects Prime Minister’s deal
Parliament rejects withdrawing without a deal
Parliament votes to extend Article 50 deadline
Parliament approves Brexit extension
Attorney general’s legal opinion
Irish backstop arrangement
Hardline Brexiters’ legal team
ERG advises members to vote against deal