What Happens After Theresa May's Second Brexit Deal Defeat? There Are Quite A Few Possibilities

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If you thought Brexit chat was almost over, think again. On March 12, the Prime Minister faced another crushing blow to her Brexit plans. A majority of 149 MPs rejected her deal for the second time. (The first on Jan. 15 had a majority of 230.) So what happens after Theresa May's second Brexit defeat? As it stands, Brexit is still happening on March 29. But several things could happen in the meantime.

For those who are a little confused by proceedings, you're not alone. Wrapping your head around the terms of May's proposed Brexit deal, let alone what's going on with the current political situation, is becoming more and more difficult.

In a nutshell, the reason MPs aren't prepared to go ahead with the prime minister's plans is because of something called the "backstop". As the Financial Times explains, this is a plan designed to prevent a hard border being reinstated between Ireland and Northern Ireland. But it effectively means that the UK would remain in a customs territory with the EU until an alternative agreement has been reached. (Northern Ireland would also be under different regulation rules than the rest of the UK.)

The problem is that, under May's deal, the UK can't leave the backstop without EU approval. Although the prime minister attempted to reassure MPs this wouldn't be the case with her second deal, the attorney general said there was still a "legal risk" that the UK could be stuck indefinitely, reports Sky News.

So, what happens now? On Wednesday March 13, MPs will vote on whether the UK should leave the EU without a deal. If they vote against this, another vote will be held on March 14 to see whether May should delay Brexit by requesting to extend Article 50.

Here are the scenarios that are most likely to occur in the coming weeks.

1. No Deal

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As many people know, leaving the EU without a deal could well be disastrous. It effectively means the UK has no idea what its relationship with the EU will look like and will have to work incredibly hard to quickly secure trade deals among other things.

The new vote could knock this scenario off the table, but MPs could well decide to go ahead with a no deal later on, reports the BBC. And if the government is unable to agree a better deal during an extension but still wants to go ahead with Brexit, no deal will be their only choice.

2. More Negotiation And Another Vote

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Although May's deal has been rejected twice, there's nothing to stop her putting it forward for a third time. As the Guardian reports, her spokesperson didn't rule this possibility out, stating that May's deal is still the best option available.

However, she could also re-open negotiations with the EU. So far, the back and forth between the UK and EU hasn't gone as smoothly as politicians had hoped, but an entirely new Brexit model could be proposed. This would likely be one that the EU views as equally or more favourable.

3. A Second Referendum

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The question that could be asked in a second referendum is still unclear. As the Guardian reports, it may revolve around a vote on May's specific deal. Or the public could be asked if they want to leave or remain in the EU in a repeat of the 2016 referendum. The majority was pretty slim the first time round (51.9 percent leave, 48.1 percent remain), and it's likely that a fair few individuals have changed their minds.

The 2016 referendum was only advisory, meaning politicians didn't have to listen to the public view. But a new one could be legally binding, if the government so chooses. Referendums aren't the quickest of processes. The Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 states that legislation needs to be put in place followed by a compulsory waiting period before a referendum date. All of that means people could be waiting months to have their say once again.

4. A General Election

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Under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, general elections are to be held every five years. But there are a few exceptions to the rule. MPs can vote to hold an early election. As the BBC reports, this may work in the prime minister's favour. If she is reelected, she may be able to finally push through her Brexit deal.

There is, however, the chance that she could lose her position at the top. In January, Labour tabled a motion of no confidence in the government, reports the Financial Times. May survived the vote, but Labour could do the same again. If the Conservatives lose, they — along with alternative governments — will have two weeks to win a new confidence vote. If no party comes out on top, a general election will be called.

5. No Brexit

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The conclusion that there could be no Brexit at all seemed far-fetched at the beginning of the process, but as time has gone on, it seems a sensible route to some, especially as the UK has been given the go ahead by the Europe. In December, the European Court of Justice ruled that the UK could cancel Brexit without seeking the approval of all of the 27 countries in the European Union. This get-out clause is likely to be the last resort for the government, but it's still an option.

One thing's clear: The road ahead looks bumpier than ever.