U.K. Parliament Prevents 31 October No-Deal Brexit

Earlier today, the United Kingdom (U.K.) House of Lords signed off on legislation which would essentially stop the U.K. from leaving the European Union (EU) on 31 October without a deal on Brexit.

The legislation was passed by the U.K. House of Commons by 327 to 299 on Wednesday. The bill should become law on Monday after the formality of royal assent.

The legislation will require U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson by 19 October to either reach a deal with the EU on Brexit or receive the support of Parliament to leave the EU without a deal. If neither action is achieved, PM Johnson will be required to seek from the EU a delay of three months for Brexit. The passage of the legislation by the House of Commons and multiple past votes by the chamber against a no-deal Brexit all but ensure the U.K. will not leave the EU on 31 October without a deal.

All 27 members states of the EU would need to agree to the extension, but it is unlikely they would deny the request and allow the U.K. to leave the EU abruptly without terms in place. Should an extension be necessary and subsequently approved, the new Brexit date would be January 31, 2020.

While the U.K. Parliament has voted for delays in the past, those votes took place at the request of then-PM Theresa May and her government. New U.K. PM Boris Johnson vowed the U.K. would leave the EU under any condition by 31 October. In defiance to Johnson, 21 members of his Conservative party rebelled and voted in favor of taking control of the chamber and then supporting the legislation to delay Brexit. Johnson subsequently had the rebels expelled from the Conservative party.

Members of the Conservative rebels voiced concern of a lack of a proposal by the government on Brexit as well as an action by Johnson to move the recess of Parliament up several weeks prior to Brexit. The move essentially reduces the amount of time Parliament has to debate a Brexit plan or further delay it, which left many members of Parliament uncomfortable.

Upon first learning of the potential votes to pass the delay legislation, Johnson vowed that if Parliament should pass the bill, he would call a special election to let U.K. voters decide the fate of Brexit. He reasoned that the Conservative party would increase their number of seats in Parliament and have the votes to support his position – although it could have backfired and his party could have lost seats, as well.

The vote for a special election, however, failed by a vote of 298 to 56 with 288 members of Parliament abstaining. A special election requires a two-thirds vote of Parliament and would thus have required 434 votes. Members of the opposing Labor and other parties stated they would support a special election but not until after October 19.

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Impact on Mobility

The passage of the legislation increases the chances for a Brexit deal but also extends the uncertainty around the terms and timing of Brexit. Companies doing business in the U.K. and Europe will need to continue to plan for their business and relocation of employees without knowing the specifics of Brexit or, while less likely but not entirely out of the realm of possibilities, the potential that it might not happen.