15 Mar

ABCC Brexit Update – 15 March 2019 - MPs Vote to Delay Brexit as PM May Paves Way for Third Vote on her Brexit Deal

  • On 14 March, MPs voted 413 to 202 (a majority of 211) for the UK Government to delay Brexit beyond 29 March by requesting an extension to Article 50 (the EU’s secession clause).
  • Conservative MPs were given a ‘free vote’ or ‘vote of conscience’ leading to 188 of May’s MPs voting against the Government’s motion to delay Brexit.
  • Another vote on an amendment calling for a second referendum was defeated by a majority of 249 votes.  Opposition Labour Party MPs abstained, with the party’s leadership saying it was too early to call a second plebiscite.
  • Two separate votes were also defeated:  one to delay Brexit to provide time for a new approach; the other to block a third ‘meaningful vote’ on PM May’s Brexit deal.
  • PM May is now expected to hold a third ‘meaningful vote’ on her Brexit Deal by next Wednesday 20 March. 
  • MPs would face two possibilities:  to back May’s deal with a short delay of Brexit, (from 29 March to possibly 30 June to enable passage of relevant legislation through Parliament) or alternatively, face a delay of up to two years.  Any extension past 30 June would likely require the UK to field candidates to the upcoming EU parliamentary elections in May and encounter a demand from the EU for “clear purpose for any extension” from the UK.
  • With the prospect of a significant delay to Brexit, pressure is growing for the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and members of the influential Conservative Brexiteer grouping, the European Research Group (ERG), to back May’s deal in a third vote. 
  • Backing from the DUP and ERG would likely be contingent on the Attorney General updating or changing his legal opinion on the ability of the UK to leave the Northern Irish Backstop – the most contentious part of May’s Brexit deal.  The backstop requires the UK to stay aligned to the EU’s Customs Union until a solution is found to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland – something unacceptable to the DUP and ERG.
  • Following a third ‘meaningful vote’ next week, PM May will travel to Brussels on 21 March for a meeting with other EU leaders where she is expected to request a delay to Brexit. 
  • All EU Member States must agree to the extension and there is now speculation that the EU will attach conditions to any delay.  Without unanimous EU agreement, the UK would remain on course to leave the EU on 29 March in a ‘No Deal’ scenario.
  • 14 days remain until the UK is scheduled to leave the EU on 29 March 2019.


The ABCC and Brexit

The ABCC will continue to follow these developments closely in the coming weeks.  We look forward to keeping members up to date with the very latest from London and what it possibly means for the Australian-British business community.  

If you would like to receive more frequent Brexit updates or have any questions, please feel free to contact our office on abcc@britishchamber.com.


By Paul O’Hagan

Paul O’Hagan is the ABCC’s General Manager in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia.  Prior to joining the ABCC, Paul was Senior Political and Economic Advisor to the U.S. Government in London, covering Brexit.

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