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U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May outside Downing Street. Photo by Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images

Faced with almost certain rejection, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May delayed a parliamentary vote on Monday on her plans for leaving the EU. To win over MPs, she is now seeking to amend the deal, in particular the complex arrangements concerning the future of the border between the U.K. and Ireland — the only land border between the U.K. and the rest of the EU.

The big picture: EU leaders have made clear that the 585-page withdrawal agreement cannot be changed. All May can expect is a side letter containing a legally meaningless “clarification,” which will satisfy very few, if any, MPs in London. Whenever she calls the vote, she is likely to face a heavy parliamentary defeat.

Background: The U.K. Parliament voted to leave the EU on March 29, 2019. Without a deal, the prospects for the U.K.’s — and, to some extent, the EU’s — economy will darken. The government’s own projection is that a “no deal” Brexit could provoke an economic slump of 10%.

  • A whole range of connections, developed over almost half a century, will be severed. Trade will be disrupted. Cooperation on fighting crime and terrorism (depending on shared databases) will be weakened. The U.K. will find it harder to obtain vital medicines. The future of U.K. citizens living in the EU, and EU citizens in the U.K., will be thrown into question.

What's next: The pressure to prevent a “no deal” Brexit will be intense. There are several possible paths:

  1. May might quit and be succeeded by a new prime minister who reopens talks with the EU.
  2. The government might fall, triggering a fresh general election. This looks unlikely at present, as there is no majority in Parliament to bring down the government, which could clear the way for the left-wing Labour party led by Jeremy Corbyn to take power.
  3. Parliament might vote for a new referendum to ask voters whether they really want to leave the EU after all. Support for a “People’s Vote” is rising at Westminster as the least bad way out of the present crisis.

The bottom line: None of the three options can realistically be concluded by March 29. The U.K. looks certain to remain in the EU at least into the summer — and, very possibly, indefinitely.

Peter Kellner is a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe.

Go deeper

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
3 hours ago - Sports

European soccer is at war

Liverpool celebrating its 2019 Champions League victory. Photo: Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

Europe's biggest soccer clubs have established The Super League, a new midweek tournament that would compete with — and threaten the very existence of — the Champions League.

Why it matters: This new league, set to start in 2023, "would bring about the most significant restructuring of elite European soccer since the 1950s, and could herald the largest transfer of wealth to a small set of teams in modern sports history," writes NYT's Tariq Panja.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
3 hours ago - Economy & Business

2021's expected earnings blowout begins

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon. Photo: Mark Kauzlarich/Bloomberg via Getty Images

First-quarter earnings so far have been very strong, outpacing even the rosy expectations from Wall Street and that's a trend that's expected to continue for all of 2021. S&P 500 companies are on pace for one of the best quarters of positive earnings surprises on record, according to FactSet.

Why it matters: The results show that not only has the earnings recession ended for U.S. companies, but firms are performing better than expected and the economy may be justifying all the hype.

3 hours ago - Science

NASA's Mars helicopter takes flight as first aircraft piloted on another planet

Ingenuity on the surface of Mars, filmed by NASA's Perseverance rover. Photo: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA successfully piloted the Ingenuity Mars helicopter for its first experimental flight on Monday, briefly hovering the aircraft as NASA's Perseverance rover collected data.

Why it matters: Ingenuity's short flight marks the first time a human-built aircraft has flown on a world other than Earth, opening the door to new means of exploring planets far from our own.

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