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Where we stand now... and what will happen next

It was the week the countdown clock stuttered to a stop and Britain said goodbye to one of the few certainties of Brexit - the March 29 date for EU withdrawal. Here's what happened, and what will happen next.

Days to go

That is anybody's guess. Conceivably 14, if the European Union refuses to grant an extension and forces the UK to leave on March 29. Or 107, if Theresa May secures a "short, technical" delay to June 30. Or 657, if there is a long extension to the end of the proposed transition period on December 31, 2020. Or some other number that the politicians manage somehow to settle on.

What happened this week?

After a weekend of stalemate, the Prime Minister seemed to have made a breakthrough on Monday, flying to Strasbourg to agree with Jean-Claude Juncker three new documents designed to reassure her critics.

That respite lasted little more than 12 hours, as Attorney General Geoffrey Cox released advice that legally, the new papers hadn't changed very much. Mrs May's Withdrawal Agreement was defeated by 149 votes on Tuesday.

Wednesday saw the PM beaten again as MPs voted to rule out a no-deal Brexit. And on Thursday, the Commons voted to delay withdrawal.

What happens next?

Dogged as ever, Mrs May is planning a third attempt to get her agreement through the Commons, probably on Tuesday or Wednesday.

The package will not be much different, though the Attorney General is understood to be looking for ways to sweeten the pill of his legal advice. Mrs May is pinning her hopes on Brexit-backing Tories, the DUP and Labour MPs from Leave seats wanting to avoid Brexit being delayed for months or years.

If she wins her vote, she will go to the EU summit in Brussels on Thursday to ask for an extension of up to three months to allow time to tie up legislative loose ends. If she loses, she has said a longer delay will be needed. EU leaders have indicated they will only grant that if the UK can explain how it will use the extra time.

Belfast Telegraph