On Tuesday, the British parliament overwhelmingly rejected Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit plan just 10 weeks before the United Kingdom is set to leave the European Union. With May's plan in shambles, it's not entirely clear what happens next with Brexit, but there are several paths the process might take from here on out.
May became prime minister after the U.K.'s historic vote in 2016 to leave the European Union, a result that shocked many and ultimately resulted in the resignation of then-Prime Minister David Cameron. However, the country's lawmakers have thus far been unable to reach a deal internally on the terms for a Brexit, and the defeat of May's proposal on Tuesday produced no clear or obvious path forward for the country or European Union leaders, who have been anxious to solidify a deal ever since the Brexit referendum passed.
Much of what happens next will depend on U.K. lawmakers, who may have to cast some tough votes regarding the Brexit process over the next couple of weeks.
Very broadly speaking, though, there are several possible outcomes. According to The New York Times, depending on what May decides to do next, it's possible that the U.K. will:
- Propose a new Brexit plan with different terms;
- Hold a general election and possibly replace May;
- Ask the EU for an extension of the Brexit deadline;
- Hold a second nationwide referendum on Brexit; or
- Exit the European Union without any deal.
All of those options could unfold in a variety of ways. Here's what the next 10 weeks in the U.K. might look like.
It's possible that May, a member of the Conservative Party, could negotiate with Labour Party lawmakers in an attempt to craft a new Brexit plan. But any Brexit plan approved by Labour Party's leadership would likely be opposed by a large chunk of May's Conservative coalition, so even if such a deal was crafted, it likely wouldn't have the votes to pass Parliament, according to the Times.
Alternatively, May could ask the European Union to modify the deal in ways that would attract a majority of votes in Parliament. But European Union leaders have already said that they won't approve a different Brexit plan. Alternatively, May could also ask the European Union to extend the U.K.'s Brexit departure deadline, which currently stands at March 29. Such an extension would require the support of all 27 member states of the union.
Meanwhile, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has said that he will call for a no-confidence vote in May's government, and the leader of U.K.'s parliament confirmed that this vote will take place Wednesday. The Guardian reports that this vote isn't likely to pass; if it does, however, May will have 14 days to form a new coalition. If she can't, the current parliament will be dissolved and new elections will be held, according to the Guardian.
It's possible that either Corbyn or even May could try and settle this by holding a second referendum on Brexit. Such a referendum could take various forms, and it's obviously impossible to say whether or not it would pass.
Lastly, if none of the above happens, the U.K. would default to a "no deal" Brexit. The Times reports that a majority of lawmakers in Parliament oppose this — and yet if they're unable to agree on an alternative, they will not be able stop it from happening.