Will it be third time lucky for May's Brexit agreement?

UK MPs will today be voting on the withdrawal agreement part of the Brexit deal, with Theresa May hoping to secure a majority despite the odds 

Brexit was originally supposed to happen on 29 March, but instead MPs will today be voting for Theresa May's withdrawal agreement for the third time (Photo: pmlive.com)
Brexit was originally supposed to happen on 29 March, but instead MPs will today be voting for Theresa May's withdrawal agreement for the third time (Photo: pmlive.com)

Theresa May will today be attempting, for the third time, to get the United Kingdom’s withdrawal agreement with the European Union through the British Parliament.

On the day Brexit was supposed to happen, May will be trying to finally get the approval of MPs for her agreement, having promised to resign if it successfully goes through.

In comments to MaltaToday, geopolitical consultant Matthew Bugeja said that, while May could potentially obtain more support this time round than the previous time the Commons voted on it, there is by no means any certainty that she will manage to get it through, given that the issue of the Irish backstop remains.

“Theresa May has done literally everything she can from a political perspective to get the deal through, even offering to resign, and asking MPs to only vote on the withdrawal agreement,” Bugeja said. 

“She seems to have more support than for the second vote, but the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) won't be backing it. She'll do better, but I'm not sure it will be enough to get over the line, since she lost by such a huge margin on the same issue twice before.”

If she fails to obtain a majority in favour of the agreement, none of the remaining alternatives are particularly favourable, he said.

“The options going forward are quite unpalatable. May could either ask the EU for a longer extension, or she could opt for an election or a referendum,” Bugeja highlighted.

“The UK is looking to avoid a no deal Brexit as much as possible, but a revocation of Article 50  [which would reverse the process altogether] is not on the cards. All of these options will make the splits within British politics worse, unfortunately,” he added.

What will MPs be voting on?

The deal negotiated with the EU by Theresa May consists of a withdrawal agreement and a political declaration.

May will be asking MPs to vote on the withdrawal agreement alone on Friday. The Prime Minister hopes that, by separating the two, she can avoid a catastrophic defeat for the third time.

The biggest sticking point of her deal so far - the Irish backstop - is part of the withdrawal agreement. The backstop is a customs plan to avoid a hard border with Ireland, but the DUP - which May's minority Conservative government relies on through a confidence-and-supply agreement - has so far refused to back it without better arrangements

But May hopes that some portion of Labour MPs will vote for the withdrawal agreement, essentially ending the UK’s EU membership, without the political declaration which determines Britain future relationship with the Union.

Despite this, the chances of it passing are slim, since Labour have insisted they would not approve a “blindfold Brexit”, and around 30 Tories and ten DUP MPs are against it too.

May, however, has argued that, by having the withdrawal agreement approved, the UK could avoid a hard Brexit, giving the country another five weeks to renegotiate the political declaration.

The EU has told Britain that it would have to leave the bloc on 12 April if the deal is not passed. If it does go through, however, it said it would grant an extension to 22 May.

A vote on the agreement is expected to take place at 3.30pm CET.

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