Sep 5, 2019

What's next for Brexit bedlam

Photo: Danny Lawson/AFP/Getty Images

It was a week of absolute mayhem in the world of Brexit and U.K. politics. In case you missed it: Boris Johnson sacked a healthy chunk of the Conservative Party's MPs after they rebelled, the opposition did its best to block a no-deal Brexit and Johnson failed to get a snap election on the books.

What's next: It's fanciful to say with certainty how it plays out from here (BuzzFeed News has a fun rundown of all of the possibilities), but here are 3 things that are reasonably likely to occur.

1. An election is coming — and soon. Johnson may have failed in his first bid for an early election, but opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn will start to feel the heat to take his message — a second referendum! — to the polls.

  • Corbyn is chomping at the bit, but the Labour Party wants the anti-no-deal Brexit legislation enshrined in law before it signs on amid fears that Johnson could use executive power to shift an election date beyond Oct. 31 and force Brexit anyway.
  • Plus, the opposition believes that a pre-Oct. 31 election plays into Johnson's hands, allowing him to woo supporters of Nigel Farage's Brexit Party. James Johnson, Theresa May's former director of polling (no relation to Boris!), says the very act of calling an election could cause voters to quickly pick sides despite fragmented polls.

2. Johnson's humiliations aren't over. If he wants an election and Labour doesn't trust he won't move the date, he may have to head to the EU to request a Brexit extension past Oct. 31, breaking one of his core promises in the process.

  • Another truly bizarre scenario would see Johnson attempt to get an election by calling a no-confidence vote against himself — and daring Corbyn to vote against it.

3. There's a surprise waiting in the wings. There are so many insane — but plausible — things that could happen. Johnson could resign to avoid breaking his extension promise, or he might flat out refuse to ask the EU for an extension, which would be against the law.

  • Did anyone expect Johnson's brother to resign from Parliament this morning, saying he was "torn between family loyalty and the national interest"? That's the kind of September shock we can expect to see repeated.

The bottom line: Pundits will continue their punditry, but we're firmly in uncharted waters here. No one — not even Britain's best and brightest — knows exactly what's coming next.

Go deeper: Catch up on more of what happened this past week in Brexit

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Parliament blocks Boris Johnson from calling snap election for 2nd time

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On the U.K. Parliament's last night before beginning a month-long suspension, Prime Minister Boris Johnson failed for the 2nd time to earn the two-thirds majority necessary to call a snap general election.

Why it matters: Johnson was hoping to use an election to circumvent a law passed by Parliament last week that will require him to seek a Brexit extension rather than crash out of the EU without a deal on Oct. 31. The prime minister has said he would rather be "dead in a ditch" than seek an extension, but he now appears to be left with little other choice outside of breaking the law.

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France says EU won't grant Brexit extension if U.K. doesn't have a plan

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French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Sunday that the European Union will not grant the U.K. an extension to its Oct. 31 Brexit deadline if the current situation doesn't change, Bloomberg reports.

"We won’t start over again every three months. Let the British Parliament, let the British authorities tell us what’s the path."
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Everything you need to know about Brexit

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

On June 23, 2016, the United Kingdom shocked the world and voted to “Brexit,” or leave the European Union. After more than three years of uncertainty and fractured politics, the U.K. officially exited the EU on Jan. 31, 2020.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Oct 29, 2019 - World