Brexit: 5 fast facts you need to know as Article 50 is delayed

It’s the morning after another tense night of Brexit votes in the Commons.

And while we still don’t know what’s going to happen – at least we know what’s not going to happen on March 29. We’re not going to leave the EU.

Theresa May secured the backing of the House of Commons to do something she’s said over and over and over that she wouldn’t do – delay our departure from the European bloc.

And after the rest of this week – she made it almost look like a win.

Here’s what you need to know this morning.

1. Brexit is not happening on March 29

Brexit is officially set to be delayed by at least three months after MPs backed Theresa May’s motion to postpone the March 29 date.

MPs voted 413-202 for the motion, which the PM was forced to lay after MPs rejected both her deal and No Deal this week.

The motion makes the UK ask the EU for a delay no matter what, but the length depends on whether MPs back the Brexit deal in a third vote next week.

If Mrs May can persuade Tory Brexiteers and the DUP to finally back her, by threatening a huge delay and offering legal tweaks, then she will ask the EU for a delay until June 30.

If she cannot agree a deal by next Wednesday, she will go to meet 27 EU leaders at a summit and Thursday and ask for a longer extension.

2. MPs resoundingly voted against a second referendum – for now

MPs voted resoundingly tonight to reject a second EU referendum.

The 334-85 result came on an amendment to Theresa May’s Brexit plan by ex-Tory MP Dr Sarah Wollaston.

The Independent Group MP wanted to "instruct" the PM to delay Brexit for long enough to "legislate for and conduct a public vote" on Brexit.

The ballot paper would ask people to choose between a form of Brexit to be determined by Parliament, and Remain.

But two official second referendum campaigns – People’s Vote and Best For Britain – said it was not the right time or way to ask MPs.

And Labour refused to back the amendment, instead asking MPs to abstain. Labour is keeping a second referendum as a possible option for the future but it’s not clear when, or how, it would back one.

Corbyn sacked four Labour rebels who voted to block a second Brexit referendum.

A total of 25 Labour MPs defied the order and backed the amendment.

Another 18 Labour MPs voted against.

Shadow ministers Justin Madders, Yvonne Fovargue and Emma Lewell-Buck defied orders and voted against the move.

The trio were sacked five hours later by Mr Corbyn.

 

3. And MPs won’t get to ‘take back control’ – again, for now

An audacious plan to wrest control of the Brexit process away from Theresa May was defeated by just two votes.

The amendment tabled by the powerful Remainer coalition of Hilary Benn, Yvette Cooper and Oliver Letwin was defeated 314-312.

It would have paved the way for a multiple-choice "indicative" vote by MPs on the way forward in the coming weeks.

MPs would have been given the chance next Wednesday to take control of future Commons business, as long as it was for a proposal backed by at least 25 MPs from 5 parties.

To avoid defeat, the government had already offered to table "indicative votes" itself – in the two weeks after next week’s EU summit.

It was not immediately clear how far that promise would be honoured after the amendment was lost.

After the vote was lost, Benn reportedly turned to Cooper and said: "Oh well."

4. Meaningful Vote 3 is happening – and this time it’s personal

If at first – and second – you don’t succeed, try, try, try again.

We are expecting a THIRD meaningful vote on Theresa May’s repeatedly-failed Brexit deal next Tuesday or Wednesday.

She will try to use the threat of a years-long delay, and some small legal tweaks, to persuade Brexiteer Tory and DUP MPs to finally come on side.

Wednesday is deadline day.

If the PM has a deal agreed by the end of the day, she will ask the EU for a short "technical" extension to Brexit Day until June 30.

If the PM doesn’t have a deal agreed by then, she will request a potentially much longer extension at an EU summit on Thursday.

EU chief Donald Tusk has said he’s willing to grant an extension – but only if the UK is clear about what it actually wants.

EU leaders may choose to frustrate or delay a decision on an extension while MPs make a decision on what kind of Brexit they actually want.

That’s where "indicative votes" come in. The government has said it will hold votes to allow MPs to shape the way forward in the two weeks after the summit next Thursday and Friday.

That means MPs could be voting on the way forward in late March or early April. Beyond that – we just don’t know.

 

5. And Geoffrey Cox has had another look in his codpiece

Attorney General Geoffrey Cox has attempted to win over Brexit-supporting lawmakers with additional legal advice.

His original opinion published on Tuesday that the legal risk remained that Britain might be unable to get out of the backstop helped convince Brexiteers to oppose the deal.

But in additional advice apparently circulated in recent days, Cox stated that Britain will be able to break out of the Irish backstop if it is having a "socially destabilising effect on Northern Ireland", which would be considered a "fundamental change" of circumstances.

Cox said the Vienna convention enables the UK to break off the backstop in the event that there has been an "unforeseen and fundamental change of circumstances".

But hardcore Brexiteers have already rejected the advice.

"Saying they are ‘exceptional’ does not make them so in the eyes of international law," ERG lawyers said last night.

"Hungary undoubtedly thought there was something ‘exceptional’ about the collapse of Soviet tyranny and the liquidation of the other State Party with which Hungary had concluded the treaty in question. But that was not enough."

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