On Tuesday 15 January, 2019 all eyes will be on England, as Theresa May battles to move her Brexit deal forward and not get ousted as Prime Minister in the process.

The United Kingdom is due to leave the EU (European Union) on 29 March, 2019 as a result of the June 2016 referendum where 52% of UK voters opted to leave for a variety of reasons. This left the UK to freely negotiate its own trade, travel, work (and so on) deals with the other 27 countries still in the EU and with the rest of the world.

Easy peasy.

Questions and Confusion

But what sort of deals did the UK hope to arrange outside of the consolidated power of a larger group? What incentive did the rest of the world have in such an equation?

The “divorce” deal, otherwise known as the withdrawal agreement, reads like someone signed a bad prenup, with the UK paying £39bn to the EU to break the partnership. It also defines:

  • What will happen to UK citizens living elsewhere in the EU, and equally, what will happen to EU citizens living in the UK
  • How to avoid the return of a physical border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland when it becomes the frontier between the UK and the EU

But it’s not a hard and fast agreement as much as a guideline to inform future negotiations. And during the transition period, there will be time to adjust. And if you think that all sounds wonderfully fuzzy and noncommittal, you’re getting a sense of the problems people have with Brexit. A smattering to inform that fear a bit more:

“Has free movement been accepted as part of the agreement to roll-over? Does the agreement allow UK-based firms to continue trading into Switzerland on the same basis as they do today? And what about all the other 39 or so existing EU trade agreements?

“Blithe assurances of progress will simply not suffice as the clock ticks down to Brexit on March 29.”

This hashtag map gives a big picture of the range of concerns folks are discussing online:

Ireland Always Draws the Short Stick

It’s not all bad; not for everyone. A Department for International Trade spokeswoman said: “The UK Government and the Swiss Federal Council have approved the transition of a trade agreement that replicates the existing EU-Switzerland arrangements as far as possible. [And] this will allow businesses to continue trading freely after the UK leaves the European Union.” Similar agreements are in play with other former EU partners, and that answers some of the concerns. Some.

Popping over to Ireland we get a different sense of things. Northern Ireland is part of the UK, but the Republic of Ireland is part of the EU, and that’s been a trouble spot. One of many.

To handle that, May has an Irish border Brexit “backstop” plan that she says will never be actually implemented/needed. It’s a last resort plan to ensure trade and travel continue freely between the two. And it’s not a super comforting consideration for the Irish people, at the least.

No Deal Is Big Deal

And then what’s this “No-Deal” Brexit about? Another pretty awful (to some) scenario, where the UK cuts all ties with the EU on 29 March, with no deal in place. No transition plan either. They’ll just sort it out as they go and that (according to proponents) it will be fine as long as the right preparations are made . . . which feels unlikely as they can’t seem to sort out similar preparations right now.

“Critics – including both Brexit supporters and opponents – say that leaving without a deal would be a disaster for the UK: driving up food prices, leading to shortages of goods and gridlock on some roads in the South East resulting from extra border checks.”

EU laws would stop applying to the UK immediately and the country would revert to World Trade Organisation arrangements. “Under a no-deal scenario we revert to WTO tariffs and that will have an impact on the trade with Europe and with the Republic of Ireland,” says Bernard Boyle, who runs an accounting firm in Newry and is a member of the group Border Communities Against Brexit.

So there are groups against Brexit, but also against “No Deal.” Can we agree Theresa May has a challenging job?

Oh, Mrs. May . . .

And then we have the lady of the hour herself, Prime Minster May, rallying the troops to feel what could only be terror, with her estimation of her negotiated, draft Brexit deal as “the best agreement that could be negotiated.”

She’s certainly giving it her “some” there. But who can blame her, as she tried to argue for staying in the EU just ahead of the vote in 2016 and the majority of people just didn’t listen:

So now she’s attempting to move forward and do the people’s bidding. And those same people are certainly feeling bitter about her for it.

May has made herself a target, as she didn’t hold the expected vote on 11 December because she felt there wasn’t enough support to pass the deal. That action really didn’t play out in her favor, as it was viewed as a delay/scare tactic to leave MPs very little time to come up with alternatives. Support for it – and her – has suffered:

And now they want her out. And to take that “best we could get” deal with her when she leaves, and start all over. Sounds . . . like an equally bad idea.

According to BBC, “a group of MPs are understood to be planning to take control of the Brexit process if, as widely expected, Mrs May’s deal is voted down. And Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has vowed to table a vote of no confidence in the government if she loses, which could trigger a general election.”

Northern Ireland’s DUP party, which keeps Mrs May in power, is also planning to vote against her deal but has said it will support Mrs May in a confidence vote.

If a majority of MPs back a no confidence motion, the government – or anyone else who can command a majority – will get 14 days to try to win another confidence vote. If no-one can’t do that, a general election will be held. 

I don’t know if I’d count on Ireland to have your back though, PM May! They mad:

But if all of this comes to pass and Theresa May is out, the next prime minister will need to sort out a solution before the 29 March deadline.

Or, they could just call it all off too. “The UK now appears to have the option of revoking unilaterally and taking a period of time of its own choosing to decide what happens next,” JP Morgan economist Malcolm Barr wrote in a note to clients.

There’s no crystal ball to tell us what will happen and predicting this one isn’t possible with the variables at play, but businesses worldwide will be watching events unfold as the countdown continues, and particularly this week. And we’ll be watching the sentiment around the events closely as well. You should too! Reach out and we’ll show you how.

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