Brexit Q&A: What is going on?

Brexit Q&A: What is going on?

What is going on?

Brexit Q&A: What is going on?

Good question.

On Monday night, British prime minister Theresa May travelled to Strasbourg for the latest last ditch Brexit deal talks with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.

At the same time, Irish ministers were hauled back to Government Buildings for an emergency cabinet meeting.

Ms May and Mr Juncker agreed three points, namely:

  • To not change the withdrawal agreement..
  • To give further legal "assurances", described by Ms May as "binding", to London that the backstop can be sent to an independent arbitration panel if the EU acts in bad faith in the two year future relationship post-Brexit period.
  • And, thirdly, that Britain can say it can "unilaterally" leave the backstop if this happens, aimed at ending British concerns of the EU trapping it in the deal..

Ireland and the EU said it would be okay with the three-pronged deal.

What went wrong?

Brexit Q&A: What is going on?

In simple terms, reality raised its ugly head.

As was quickly pointed out by the DUP and Brexiteers, the crucial third point only said the EU agreed Britain can say it can leave the backstop unilaterally, and did not say the EU agreed Britain can leave - a subtle but vital difference.

In a statement to the House of Commons on Tuesday morning, Britain's attorney general Geoffrey Cox dealt a fatal blow to the deal, saying while the changes reduced the "risk" of being trapped by the backstop it did not remove the risk.

In response, the DUP and the Conservative party's hard-line Brexiteer think-tank the European Research Group said they will not back the deal.

What does this mean for Britain?

Brexit Q&A: What is going on?

The drama in London has thrown Britain - never mind Brexit - into fresh chaos, with Ms May facing growing calls to resign, rumours of a potential snap British election and the Brexit solution labelled a "phantom" by Brexiteer Jacob Rees Mogg.

The House of Commons is almost certain to reject the deal by a significant majority on Tuesday evening.

On Wednesday, MPs will vote on whether to rule out a no deal crash-out Brexit, before voting on Thursday on whether to seek a March 29 Brexit divorce day extension.

However, if Ms May loses on Tuesday night by more than 150 votes, MPs have privately said it will definitively end any dwindling hope one last push could get a deal over the line - and trigger renewed calls for her to resign, potentially causing a snap British election.

What does this mean for Ireland and the EU?

Brexit Q&A: What is going on?

It means despite a genuine scare on Monday night, Ireland's position remains unchanged.

As Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said in a statement at Government Buildings on Tuesday morning, the withdrawal agreement and the backstop remain unchanged.

In a detailed statement, Mr Varadkar was clear in saying Monday evening's documents "are complimentary to the withdrawal agreement and political declaration", and do not replace them.

He also said "we are aware the UK government has also published a unilateral declaration", separating this third point by noting it does not change the backstop as the EU has simply noted the British move, not accepted it.

And what does this mean for Brexit itself?

Take your pick between ... a crash-out no deal Brexit, a deadline extension potentially to May 24 provided a clear plan is outlined, Ms May's resignation, a snap British election, a second referendum or Brexit not happening at all.

So, is the deal dead?

When it comes to Brexit no one can know for sure, but unless the deal miraculously rises from its apparent death bed by any of the above options, it may be time for the existing deal to be given the last rites.

More on this topic

Jeremy Corbyn says he is daunted but ‘determined’ by prospect of being PMJeremy Corbyn says he is daunted but ‘determined’ by prospect of being PM

We can have a Brexit deal, Jean-Claude Juncker insistsWe can have a Brexit deal, Jean-Claude Juncker insists

Taoiseach to meet British PM in US next week; Brexit deal 'will not happen at 5am'Taoiseach to meet British PM in US next week; Brexit deal 'will not happen at 5am'

Donohoe's third meeting in three weeks with UK counterpart delivers littleDonohoe's third meeting in three weeks with UK counterpart delivers little