Following a series of votes this week on Brexit, the United Kingdom (UK) House of Commons ultimately voted last night in support of seeking a delay of the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union (EU). Brexit is scheduled to occur on March 29 but would be pushed back to June 30 under the adopted proposal.
All twenty-seven members of the European Council will need to sign off on approving the delay when they meet on March 21. Prior to the vote, Council President Donald Tusk indicated his support for a delay. However, other EU officials have stated in the past that Brexit should only be delayed to provide time for a vote on a second referendum or a UK special election.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May is now working on both gaining European Council approval for the delay and advocating for Members of Parliament (MPs) to support the proposed Brexit agreement, which will be voted on for a third time by the House of Commons on March 19. MPs rejected the deal for a second time earlier this week and supported again the somewhat contrary position of the UK not leaving the EU without an agreement.
In addition to the vote yesterday on the delay, the House of Commons rejected several amendments to the proposal for delay. The first amendment would have called for a vote on a second referendum as to whether the UK should indeed leave the EU. The amendment was defeated, with many supporters of the remain movement not voting, as they did not believe the timing politically was optimal for the vote to succeed.
Two other amendments were defeated that would have enabled MPs to debate and craft alternative Brexit agreements to the one negotiated by PM. A final amendment was withdrawn that would have prevented May from bringing the proposed agreement before Parliament for a third vote.
Where the UK goes from here on Brexit is uncertain. A delay will provide more time for discussion on the agreement, but EU negotiators have been united and firm that they are not open for changes to it. The backstop agreement regarding the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland continues to be the obstacle for many MPs who want a definitive timing for the UK withdrawal from the EU. In the proposed agreement, the UK would not leave the single market or customs union until the border issue is resolved.
Regardless of whether the UK withdraws from the EU, the impact of Brexit likely will have an everlasting impact on workforce mobility. Foreign companies that currently have their European operations solely in the UK are looking to diversify into other European cities within EU member states. Companies looking to establish a presence in Europe are considering that the UK will likely not be part of the EU. We are therefore likely to see shifts in trends in relocations to Europe for years to come. As always, we will keep you apprised of new developments on Brexit.