It is D-Day for the United Kingdom’s attempts to exit the European Union and for the deal that Prime Minister Theresa May has negotiated to try and smooth the process.
The British Parliament will vote today on the agreement between Prime Minister May and the EU, with most observers agreeing that the deal is set to be rejected by a record amount. According to the Daily Mail, even the prime minister’s allies agree that she is going to lose by a record number.
There are 650 MPs in the British Parliament and all of them are entitled to vote on Theresa May’s deal. She needs a simple majority to win, but this seems highly unlikely. All of the UK’s opposition party’s are against the deal as well as more than 100 of her own MPs.
One British news outlet, Sky News, has estimated that she is likely to lose by as many as 422 votes to 197. If this proves accurate, it would be the largest defeat of a British government in a Parliamentary vote in modern times.
The question is, what happens after the vote? If the miracle happens and Theresa May does win the day, then the UK will continue with Brexit (leaving the EU) under the terms of her deal.
If, as most people suspect, she loses, it is highly likely that her government could collapse. They are a minority government who need the support of the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to have a majority of MPs in Parliament. The DUP oppose her deal, too.
The main opposition Labour Party has declared its intention to force a vote of no confidence in the government if May’s deal is defeated. However, such is the antipathy to their leader Jeremy Corbyn, that May will expect to win that vote. If she lost, the UK would face a general election to elect a new government.
It is possible that Prime Minister May could decide to call an election anyway. She has thrown her full weight behind the deal she negotiated and if it is defeated, it is difficult to see how she can change tack and still retain any credibility.
She could choose to stand down as prime minister and allow her party, the Conservatives, to elect a new leader who would then become prime minister. But her party is deeply divided about how the UK should leave the EU so any such leadership contest would be hard-fought and damaging.
Parliament decided last week that if she does lose the vote, she will have just three working days to come up with a plan B. Possible plans that have been discussed include abandoning Brexit altogether and staying in the EU, holding a second referendum on EU membership, or leaving without an agreement on WTO terms.
Whatever happens, the next few days in British politics promise to be hugely dramatic and exciting.