Parliament in London was debating a no-confidence motion against the government Wednesday evening (India time), a fallout of Prime Minister Theresa May’s crushing defeat the previous day on her plan for Britain’s exit from the European Union. It was unlikely the motion, tabled by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, would be passed, British media were reporting — even so, with the clock ticking down to 2300 GMT on March 29, the time and date set for Brexit, it remained unclear what the next step in this extraordinarily confusing situation would be. The Guardian, the BBC, The New York Times, and newswires such as The Associated Press and Reuters were reporting a range of possible scenarios.
Scenario 1: MPs takes charge
* This could, in theory, see Labour call for another referendum, a “people’s vote” that an increasing number of pundits have been advocating. However, May and her top colleagues have been steadfast that there would be no second plebiscite, and Corbyn himself has been opposed to the idea. Even if he were to give in, this action does not, as of now, have support of the majority in Parliament.
* May could try to negotiate with Labour, and perhaps agree to its plan for a customs union with the EU. How her own MPs would take it is uncertain. It’s also not certain that this alone would secure the support of Labour.
* A group of MPs wants to take the wheel themselves. While a majority wants to avoid a Brexit without a deal, how will they go about executing this option?
Scenario 2: May goes back to EU
* The PM could either ask the EU for a sweetener to take back to the Commons in a renewed bid to get her plan through, or seek a postponement of Brexit. The problem is Brussels has already made clear that the deal would not be renegotiated, and even if it were to soften, May is unlikely to be able to guarantee that the sweetener she seeks would be bought by Parliament in the UK. Again, under Article 50 of the EU treaty, all 27 member countries must sign off on any change in the two-year negotiating period. This difficult unanimity might have a chance if the UK has a second referendum perhaps, or is able to offer the EU states a serious plan.
Scenario 3: May’s long shots
* There are two desperate, unlikely-to-succeed moves she can attempt. One, despite winning the no-confidence vote, she could still call for an election in the hope she would get a bigger majority that would help pass her deal. But then, she gambled on exactly this last year and suffered a setback instead — this time, she could even be defeated.
The other Hail Mary she could throw is a referendum — asking the people to choose between her plan and staying in the EU. But Parliament will have to consent to this.
Scenario 4: Leave without deal
* If Parliament remains unable to find a way out of the crisis, this could actually happen — and chaos could follow. There is reason for optimism that it would not come to this — a large majority in Parliament is against leaving without a deal. But MPs are yet to determine how they would go about stopping it.