London – British MPs opposed to leaving the EU without a deal on October 31 are poised to vote against the government in a move that could trigger an early election.
Here are some possible scenarios for the coming weeks:
– Early election –
The government has said that if it loses a vote on delaying Brexit later on Tuesday it will put forward another vote on Wednesday to hold an early election on October 14.
Under British electoral law, the next election is not due until 2022 and a two-thirds parliamentary majority is required to hold the vote ahead of time.
The main opposition Labour Party has said in the past that it would welcome a general election.
But some in the party are concerned about holding one before legislation is passed that would force whoever is the next prime minister to postpone Brexit if there is no agreement with Brussels before October 31.
Rebel Conservative MPs are also unlikely to favour an election as they would most likely not be selected to stand as candidates as punishment for their insubordination.
– ‘No deal’ Brexit –
Prime Minister Boris Johnson insists there can be no further delays to Brexit, more than three years after Britons voted to leave the European Union in June 2016.
Although he says he wants a deal, he has stepped up preparations for a “no deal” exit on October 31.
Critics fear this option could cause significant economic disruption on both sides of the English Channel, by severing ties between Britain and its closest trading partner overnight.
It is also unlikely to be the end of the story.
Britain wants to continue to be able to trade with the EU after Brexit and will still need to strike some kind of agreement with Brussels.
– Brexit with a deal –
Britain is currently scheduled to leave the European Union on October 31, whether or not it has agreed a divorce deal with Brussels.
Johnson, who took office in July, says he wants a deal to smooth Britain’s exit after 46 years of EU membership.
However, he wants to change the terms agreed by his predecessor, Theresa May, which were rejected three times by the British parliament.
His main objection to the current deal relates to proposals for keeping open the border between British Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland.
But the EU insists this so-called backstop plan must stay, and says London has yet to come up with any credible alternative plan.
The composition of the UK parliament
– Delay Brexit –
If Johnson’s opponents vote against the government on Tuesday and then do not immediately vote in favour of holding an election, then there is a chance for legislation that would delay Brexit.
The draft law would be debated and voted on by the House of Commons on Wednesday. If it passes, it would then go to the upper House of Lords in the coming days for final approval.
The time is highly restricted as Johnson, in a highly controversial move, has arranged for parliament to be suspended next week until October 14 — a fortnight before Brexit.
The text of the draft law states that the prime minister has to delay Brexit until January 31 if there is no agreement with the EU by October 19 — after an EU summit on October 17-18.