Brexit: The “Meaningful Vote”

15 January 2019

Practice Area: Governance, Risk and Compliance
Sector: Brexit


By this evening the House of Commons will have closed its debate on the EU Withdrawal Agreement in its current form. This will conclude with an all-important “meaningful vote” on the draft agreement. If the UK government is defeated, there are six possible outcomes envisaged. They could:

  1. Second Vote: bring the agreement back to Parliament for a second vote;
  2. Further Negotiations with the EU: attempt to bring the draft Agreement and Framework back to the table with the EU negotiators;
  3. General Election: they may take the view that a general election is required to avoid deadlock and provide the House of Commons with a mandate to take the next steps;
  4. Referendum: call a second referendum, referred to by its supporters’ as “the People’s Vote”, it is not clear what might be on the ballot paper and what is more, this option would almost certainly require an extension of Article 50;
  5. Vote of No Confidence: call a vote of no confidence. It could be called from either the government or opposition MPs, if a vote of no confidence is passed and no government can be formed within 14 days, a general election would have to be called no less than 25 days later; or
  6. No Deal: this is the default positon under the EU Withdrawal Act; in legal terms this is what will happen if the deal is voted down and no further steps are agreed upon by the House of Commons.

It is readily apparent (although not really surprising) that businesses remain very uncertain as to what the future holds. Carson McDowell have been actively monitoring the Brexit process in a Northern Ireland business context since June 2016. With 10 weeks to go until “Brexit Day”, our advice very much remains the same – regardless of sector or size – prepare for ALL eventualities as and until firm detail begins to emerge. We will endeavour to keep on top of political events as they progress and interpret the implications for business. To date we have prepared the following documents which we trust will inform the view of local businesses in the lead up to today's vote:

  1. Draft withdrawal deal: Click here for an overview of the draft withdrawal agreement and the implications for NI Business;
  2. Brexit Clauses: Click here for a note on the growing area of discussion around how to “brexit proof” your commercial contracts; and
  3. No Deal: Click here for an infograph on five key issues for businesses to consider in the event of "no deal".

Carson McDowell’s Brexit team can be contacted on [email protected].