Brexit vote explained: What happens in Britain after Tuesday’s vote?

A vote by Parliament on Tuesday delivered a blow to Prime Minister Theresa May's plan for Britain's departure from the European Union.

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The vote, 391-242, meant that a majority of the members of Parliament decided not to back a plan that spells out how the United Kingdom would end its association with long-time trading partners.

However, the vote does not mean that the U.K. will stay in the EU.

Following Tuesday’s no vote on the current plan that spells out how the country would leave the EU, a vote is scheduled for Wednesday to decide if the U.K. will leave the EU without any agreement on what happens after the departure.

What does the vote mean to Brexit and where does the process stand now? Here’s a look at the proposed move.

What does Brexit mean?

Nothing, really. It is a combination of “Britain” and “exit” – or Brexit. Britain will be exiting the European Union.

What’s the European Union?

The European Union is an economic and political partnership of 28 countries. Each of the countries is independent but they share trade agreements. The European Union, or EU, operates a single market which allows free movement of goods, capital and services. 

The 28 countries are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

What is the argument for staying?

It is mainly an economic one. There are 3 million United Kingdom jobs linked to trade in Europe, according to those who want the U.K. to stay in the EU. The country also benefits from lower prices for things like travel within the EU countries.

Another reason would be a law enforcement advantage – the European Arrest Warrant enables the U.K. and EU members to more easily extradite criminals across borders.
What is the argument for going?

A big argument in favor of leaving the EU is that the country would save 350 million British Pounds a week, according to one source. Another major argument is that it would allow the U.K. to be in charge of its own borders (read: immigration).

Under the current EU rules, if someone has the right to live in one of the EU countries, they can live in any or all of the EU countries.

What happens after Tuesday’s vote?

With just 16 days before the U.K. is scheduled to leave the European Union, the House of Commons rejected a deal with the European Union that was aimed at limiting major disruptions to business practices and headaches to people traveling into and out of the U.K. and EU countries.

The deal is known as the withdrawal agreement and it basically lays out how the U.K. will leave the EU. See below for the details of the plan.

On Wednesday, Parliament will vote on whether to leave the EU without having a withdrawal agreement.

If the vote fails, then a third vote will be scheduled for Thursday. That vote will be to delay the U.K.’s exit from the EU. If that vote passes, the other 27 countries in the EU will have to approve the Brexit delay.

What is the withdrawal agreement?

The withdrawal agreement, approved by May and EU leaders in November of 2018, addresses what happens to U.K. citizens living in other EU countries as well as what happens to EU citizens living in the U.K.

It also deals with how much money the UK will pay to leave the EU – around 39 billion pounds or about 51 billion American dollars.

The third issue the agreement addresses is the prospect of a physical border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. When and if the U.K. leaves the EU, Northern Ireland will be leaving as well. Ireland will remain in the EU.
Right now, goods and services flow between Northern Ireland and Ireland with few restrictions. If Brexit occurs, that could change.

A “backstop” has been implemented in the withdrawal plan that would keep a “hard” border – one with checkpoints and structures -- from being built between Northern Ireland and Ireland. According to May, the backstop is meant only to be a last resort to keep Ireland’s borders open should Brexit happen without a withdrawal deal in place.

The backstop has been a problem for May and her withdrawal plan and was cited as the reason the vote failed on Tuesday. While it is meant to be a last resort against a physical border from being built, some claim that the agreement would mean that the EU would have control of an Irish border and if it decides – meaning a majority of its members votes so – then it could keep control over how Northern Ireland trades with EU countries.

May has said the backstop plan is just an insurance policy and that it would never be used.

What happens if they vote yes on Wednesday?

If it is a yes vote for withdrawal on Wednesday, then the U.K. leaves the EU on March 29 without a withdrawal agreement. There would be no transition period. EU laws affecting the U.K. and its citizens would stop immediately.

What happens if they vote no on Wednesday?

If the vote fails, there will be another vote on Thursday. That vote will be to delay the date the U.K. leaves the EU by extending Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union.

Article 50 outlines how a member country would withdraw from the European Union.

The U.K. invoked Article 50 in March 2017 after a referendum asking Brits If they wanted to leave the EU passed. Article 50 would extend the time the U.K. has to leave the EU.

What happens if they vote yes on Thursday?

If they vote yes on Thursday, to extend Article 50, May will request an extension on the date the U.K. will leave the EU.
If Parliament votes Thursday to extend Article 50 and gets an extension past the March 29 deadline, one of seven options is likely, according to the BBC. The options are:

  1. Leaving the EU with no deal
  2. More votes on the current deal May negotiated
  3. A renegotiated deal
  4. A new referendum on whether to leave the EU
  5. A new election that puts May's government in jeopardy
  6. A vote of no confidence for May
  7. The end of Brexit

What happens if they vote no on Thursday?

If the vote on extending Article 50 is a no, then the U.K. leaves the European Union at 11 p.m. U.K. time on March 29 without a deal.

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