The UK Parliament vote on Brexit negotiations

British MPs have rejected the Withdrawal Agreement reached between the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK), increasing the chances of the UK withdrawing from the EU on March 29 without a deal. While an agreement was reached between Theresa May and the EU, the deal required the endorsement of the House of Commons. This comes after the Withdrawal Agreement was ratified by the European Council, in December 2018.

What were the main provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement?
One of the main contentions dominating the UK’s withdrawal from the EU is its border with Ireland. A solution has yet to be found on this issue and until then, a temporary EU-UK customs union was agreed upon. Both sides have agreed to avoid the return of a hard border in Ireland, which would include physical checks.

Other provisions of the agreement include safeguarding the rights of EU citizens residing in the UK, and the rights of British citizens residing in EU Member States. After March 29, it was also agreed that a transition period be put in place, where the UK is still treated as an EU Member State, with the exception of participation in the EU institutions and governance structures.

Why was the Withdrawal Agreement rejected?
The Withdrawal Agreement was rejected by the UK’s House of Commons by 432 votes against and 202 votes in favour. This has created a lot of uncertainty on what will now happen on March 29, when the UK is expected to formally end its EU membership.

The main contention remains the issue of the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. In fact, before the vote was taken over the final Withdrawal Agreement, a vote was taken on an amendment put forward by MP John Baron. The amendment would have given the UK the unilateral right to terminate the temporary solution on the Irish border without the consent of the EU. This amendment was heavily defeated.

What’s next?
With the defeat of the Withdrawal Agreement, there is no telling what could happen between today and March 29. It is possible that the UK could leave the EU on that date without a deal, with EU officials and the EU-27 noting this would be the least attractive option. There is always the possibility that the UK’s withdrawal is delayed until a solution is found, although EU officials have stated that the Withdrawal Agreement would not be re-negotiated.

A vote of no-confidence is set to take place tonight in the British House of Commons, which would potentially pave the way forward for what is more likely to happen on March 29. The withdrawal of the UK from the EU is still considered as uncharted territory, and uncertainty will likely continue to reign in the coming weeks.

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