The UK Prime Minister, Theresa May today announced that she was indefinitely postponing the House of Common’s vote on the Brexit deal she agreed with the EU three weeks ago. The Prime Minister acknowledged that if there had been a vote this week, her deal would have been heavily defeated by MPs in Westminster.
This means that with just 75 working days to go before Brexit day on the 29 March 2019, we still have no agreement on what Brexit will be. We are now standing on the threshold of a huge change to the UK economy and society but we still do not know exactly what form that could take, how fast it could happen and how big a change it may be.
What happens next?
The Prime Minister indicated that the ‘Northern Ireland backstop’ provisions of the deal is the main element that MPs oppose. She will now seek further concessions from EU leaders at their EU summit on Thursday; although the EU President Donald Tusk has already indicated that there may be very little room for manoeuvre.
We do not know when Parliament will now have a chance to vote on Brexit. Theresa May hinted it might be 21 January, but in theory she could call a vote as late as 28 March.
The scale of discontent amongst MPs means we may see some radical responses and political manoeuvrings. The Labour Party may call for a vote of no confidence in the government and try to push for an election. Another group of MPs may push for a ‘People’s Vote’. And another faction of MPs may push for a ‘Norway Plus’ Brexit (single market and customs union membership). Theresa May’s own ministers may urge her to adopt a radical change of plan or resign.
Any of this could happen swiftly; but may drag out over Christmas and well into January or even February. There are many different potential outcomes. The default remains a ‘No Deal’ Brexit: unless MPs can agree on something (and the EU agrees too), then we will leave the EU on 29 March with No Deal.
The options ahead are set out in the flow diagram in the video below
What does this mean for business and other organisations?
1. Don’t wait for the politicians to reach an agreement. It could be February or even March before this political deadlock breaks. By then it will be too late to make contingency plans for 29 March.
2. If you can, plan for all eventualities. If you haven’t already, do some scenario planning, assessing how the different options impact on your organisation, your markets and suppliers. We can help through our Brexit Advisory services.
3. Identify opportunities that uncertainty and disruption in the market create: where are your competitive advantages; how can your goods or services help others navigate this uncertain time; are there opportunities to increase exports in the rest of the world or acquire undervalued assets?
4. If nothing else, plan for No Deal: and work out when you need to implement plans to ensure ongoing business continuity. The Government is ramping up its No Deal contingency planning; so should you.
5. Get match fit: focus on the business basics: protecting cashflow; insulating your balance sheet; retaining and attracting talent; sweating your assets; meeting customer needs; and removing unnecessary costs.