What Next For Brexit As Lawmakers Reject May’s Deal (Again)

The EU has said explicitly that a delay beyond then would require the UK to participate, partly because failing to do so could present the logistical headache of being unable to redistribute the UK's seats across the bloc as planned. From the British perspective, holding European elections could also be politically awkward for the major political parties. This could mean that the Conservatives/Labour wouldn't actively campaign, which may raise concerns in Brussels that European elections in Britain could see a strong turnout for anti-EU candidates - a potential headache for EU leaders if Article 50 needs to be extended further. 

The upshot is that a shorter, two-to-three month delay seems the more politically palatable option to many on either side of the Channel. However there is a real risk this won't be long enough to break the current impasse, and after all, a delay does not change the fact that Parliament still needs to agree on a favored Brexit option.

That means a no deal Brexit at the end of the extended Article 50 period remains a risk - and even though Brussels may be open to another delay, with each extension comes the growing risk that EU leaders may eventually lose patience and say no.

2. Parliament may also try to force 'indicative votes' on different Brexit options

That said, it's clear that there is an appetite in Parliament to do all it can to avoid a 'no deal' outcome and as the pressure intensifies, focus will inevitably shift to alternative Brexit proposals.

There have previously been suggestions that backbench MPs may at some point try to force the government to hold a series of 'indicative votes' to see whether any individual Brexit strategy commands a majority in Parliament. 

The option of a second referendum still lacks support - not least because a number of Labour MPs represent Leave-supporting seats. However, as many (ourselves included) have argued in the past, we suspect some form of soft-Brexit shift could eventually succeed in gaining a narrow majority in the House of Commons. This might resemble the Labour Party's proposal - a permanent customs union - which after all is not ever so far away from the current deal, which contains an all-UK customs union as part of the Irish backstop. 

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