Political artist Kaya Mar with his painting in London, England. Photo: Jack Taylor via Getty Images

The U.K. Parliament has rejected the government’s Brexit plans, in a sweeping 432–202 vote. The development plunges U.K. politics into crisis: While there’s a clear majority against the government’s plans, there’s no evident majority in favor of a specific alternative.

Why it matters: If Parliament cannot agree on what to do next, the U.K. will by default crash out of the EU without a deal. This could do immense damage to the U.K.'s economy, potentially taking as much as a 10.7% hit to the country’s GDP.

Background: For the past 2 years, the U.K. has been negotiating an agreement on the terms of its EU departure, set for March 29 — just 10 weeks from now. Prime Minister Theresa May hoped that a majority of MPs would support her agreement so that Brexit could proceed in an orderly manner, but those hopes have now been dashed.

The government has been defeated by a coalition of opposites: around 120 MPs who want a more clear-cut, “hard” Brexit, and believe that May has compromised too much; and over 300 MPs who think Brexit is a mistake.

The margin of the government’s defeat — far greater than any previous U.K. government's on a major policy — also raises questions about May’s future. In the short term, she should survive.

  • A vote of no confidence in the government — proposed by Labour’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn — will be debated on Wednesday, but it’s almost certain to be defeated. The one thing all Conservatives agree on is that they don’t want the general election that a successful vote would entail.
  • But in the weeks and months ahead, May’s survival is far less certain.

What’s next: May will return to Parliament next Monday, setting out her plans in the wake of her heavy defeat. She has said that “no deal is better than a bad deal.” It remains to be seen whether she will hold her ground, which would appease the 120 hard-Brexit MPs, or pivot to a softer Brexit to build a cross-party consensus.

What to watch: Whatever May does, Parliament may decide to seize control of the process and assemble a different majority — potentially one that agrees to hold a fresh referendum. The possibility that the U.K. will end up remaining in the EU can no longer be dismissed.

Peter Kellner is a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe.

Go deeper

The hard seltzer wars are heating up

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Competition in the hard seltzer market is heating up in the closing weeks of summer, as big companies like Constellation Brands, AB InBev and Molson Coors have entered the market and Coca-Cola is poised to join the fray in 2021.

Why it matters: The coronavirus pandemic has increased alcohol sales overall and hard seltzers are exploding in popularity and look to have staying power, boasting record high sales in recent weeks.

Why you should be skeptical of Russia's coronavirus vaccine claims

Photo: Alexey Druzhini/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Tuesday that his country has registered a coronavirus vaccine and said that one of his daughters has already been inoculated, AP reports.

Why it matters: Scientists around the world are skeptical about Russia's claims. There is no published scientific data to back up Putin's claims that Russia has a viable vaccine — or that it produces any sort of immunity without significant side effects.

A quandary for state unemployment agencies

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

State agencies charged with paying unemployment benefits to jobless residents have their backs against the wall as they rush to parse President Trump's executive actions on coronavirus aid.

Why it matters: States are being asked to pitch in $100 per unemployed resident, but it’s a heavy lift for cash-strapped states that are still unclear about the details and may not opt-in at all. It leaves the states and jobless residents in a state of limbo.