Brexit Bulletin: The Predictions Edition

(Bloomberg) -- Today in Brexit: What will the New Year bring? No one really knows, but that won’t stop us trying to make sense of it all.

It’s end-of-term day in Westminster. Despite pleas from some in the House of Commons to keep Parliament in session given the Brexit crisis, lawmakers head home for the holidays knowing that the biggest decision has been deferred until the new year. MPs will vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal the week beginning Jan. 14. 

With the denouement deferred, here are five Brexit scenarios that could play out in 2019. Whatever happens, it’s going right down to the wire.

What Could Happen in 2019

  1. Brexit, Interrupted. There’s a good chance Brexit might not actually happen on March 29. The exit day is written into law, but that doesn’t mean it’s there to stay. Prime Minister May says she doesn’t think it would be right to extend the divorce date, which isn’t the same as ruling it out. Maneuverings to secure an extension are the thing to watch early next year. What does the European Union say? It would accept a postponement if there were a significant shift in domestic politics, but not just to buy time. 
  2. The Deal Comes Back to Life. May’s deal might look dead, but then the prime minister has often been called a dead woman walking and she’s still here. Her deal can be resurrected, but probably only if she’s defeated in one vote and brings it back to Parliament with weeks to spare before exit day. She gets a fig-leaf reassurance from the EU to make the worst parts of her deal more acceptable — perhaps after a January summit. Labour members of Parliament decide they can’t vote for no-deal and they’re increasingly aware their own party leadership doesn’t have a good alternative. It squeaks through. But the relief doesn’t last: will the Northern Irish Democratic Unionists make good on their pledge and bring down the government the next day? 

    What’s in the 585-Page Brexit Divorce Deal Document?
    The Brexit Declaration on Future Ties: The Breakdown
  3. Have Another Go. The deal is dead, and can’t be resuscitated. The Cabinet forces May to change tack. There’s no majority in Parliament for any kind of Brexit. May gives up on her long-held opposition to a second referendum and reluctantly proposes putting the choice between her deal and no deal to the people. Parliament balks at the no-deal option and forces a three-way vote. An extension to Article 50 is sought, and Britain is back on the campaign trail. The risk for May is that announcing a referendum prompts the Brexiteers to side with Labour and bring down her government — though they’d have to ponder if that was a good look or might make them look a bit chicken.
  4. General Election: Many paths lead us to what would be the second general election in two years. May could call one, to try to break the deadlock in a way she might consider more democratic than a referendum. Or the Brexiteers could lend Labour enough votes to bring down the government. So could the DUP. If we’re headed toward no-deal there’s a very slim chance that Tory Remainers could side with Labour to do the same. In any case, this would lead us back to an extension (see No. 1).
  5. No Deal:  This is the default option if a deal isn’t approved in time. But Parliament is overwhelmingly against it and has tools to block it. The catch? Brexiteers also reckon they have some tools to stop Parliament stopping no-deal. So it could come down to a case of which side is better at parliamentary legal tricks. Both sides have good lawyers. 
Brexit Bulletin: The Predictions Edition

Holiday Must-Reads

Your essential Brexit reading list for the holiday break. 

The Brexit Bulletin is going on holiday. We’ll be back with a roundup of everything you might have missed on Jan. 4. You can still follow us @Brexit on Twitter.

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