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Into the Brexit unknown: What happens next?

We look at what might happen in the next few days and weeks, with Brexit ever closer on the horizon.

Anti-Brexit protests in Westminster (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
Anti-Brexit protests in Westminster (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

She’s won a confidence vote but seen her Brexit deal eviscerated by MPs in the greatest parliamentary humiliation of a serving prime minister in the modern era.

So where now for Theresa May and where now for the UK?

Reminder: there are now just 71 days until Brexit.

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Prime Minister Theresa May speaking outside 10 Downing Street in London after MPs rejected Labour’s motion of no confidence by 325 votes to 306 (Yui Mok/PA)

Here we look at what could happen next:

– Theresa May resigns: About as likely as a calm, logical tweet from US President Donald Trump. While the PM has said she will not lead the Tories into another general election, she has consistently ruled out quitting before Brexit.

– Plan B is activated: The Prime Minister has yet to reveal what her fallback position is, assuming she has one. Not even senior Cabinet ministers seem to know. Under the terms of an amendment tabled by Dominic Grieve last week and controversially passed by MPs, she has until Monday to present a new plan to the Commons.

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(PA Graphics)

-It’s good to talk: Mrs May has offered to talk to opposition parties and groups with different desires and views to find consensus in Parliament. But her refusal to abandon no-deal Brexit and other leaders’ refusal to speak properly until she does, suggests they will be butting heads like furious elephant seals unless one of them yields the metaphorical beach.

– Confidence vote 2.0: The opposition can in theory call as many of these votes as they like, although the Lib Dems have said they will not support another as they believe it is a waste of time. Such a vote could trigger a general election but this is very much the nuclear option for Tory rebels and the DUP have already said they will not vote with Labour, so it appears to be a forlorn hope.

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Prime Minister Theresa May and EU President Jean-Claude Juncker at a press conference at the EU Commission in Brussels last year (Etienne Ansotte/EU/PA)

– Back to Brussels for more talks: The EU has said repeatedly that it will not reopen negotiations on the Withdrawal Agreement, and “assurances” on the Irish border backstop were dismissed by Brexiteers on Monday. There is little time and no clear indication what more the EU can or wants to offer. France has stepped up its no-deal preparations.

– Asking for an extension of Article 50: Mrs May has previously insisted almost to the point of foot-stamping that Britain will leave the EU on March 29, and a U-turn here would enrage already puce Brexiteers.

– Halting Article 50: A court case last year ruled that, while all 27 other EU states have to agree to extend the Article 50 process of leaving, the UK can unilaterally reverse it. Neither the Tories nor Labour support a halt but Philip Hammond reportedly told business leaders in a conference call on Wednesday that a bill being rustled up by backbenchers would have this as its aim.

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The ticket barriers at Westminster Underground station in London with advertisements for the People’s Vote campaign, which calls for a second referendum on membership of the European Union (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

– A second referendum: Labour members at conference left the door open to supporting a new vote on leaving if the party could not trigger a general election. Mr Corbyn was applauded by Labour activists when he pointed this out in a speech on Thursday. But he also indicated he would rather leave with a Labour-flavoured Withdrawal Agreement.

– A game of Boles: Tory former minister Nick Boles has plans for a new bill that would basically allow backbench MPs to wrestle control of the Brexit process if Theresa May loses Tuesday’s vote and cannot come up with a viable alternative. But it appears to have very little support.

– No-deal Brexit: If Theresa May loses and Parliament cannot come together behind an alternative, the UK will leave the European Union on March 29 without a deal. This is something to either be afraid of, or not afraid of, depending on your view of Brexit.

PA

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