Europe

Brexit is about to get really interesting. The next 18 days will determine what happens

0:00

The next two weeks are shaping up to be crucial in the UK's ongoing Brexit process.

It's crunch time in the seemingly never-ending Brexit saga with Boris Johnson determined to take the UK out of the EU on 31 October, “come what may”.

There have been positive signs a deal could be possible, but time is running out and many in Brussels are sceptical about the British Prime Minister’s true intentions.

This is shaping up to be a crucial week in the process and on Monday, it's the Queen’s speech.

The address lays out the government’s priorities for the upcoming year and is read by the monarch - but written by ministers.

Without a Conservative majority, there’s no guarantee it will pass when voted on.

Anti-Brexit demonstrators stand in front of the European Commission.
Anti-Brexit demonstrators stand in front of the European Commission last week.
EPA

Then on Thursday 17 October, the EU Council kicks off.

European leaders, including Boris Johnson, will meet in Brussels to discuss Brexit and other a number of other matters.

If a deal has been reached by then, the leaders will sign off on it. If not, the focus will likely turn to the terms of another delay, as well as “no-deal planning.”

It doesn't slow down on the weekend and on Saturday 19 October there will be the Extension Request and Special Parliamentary Session.

By law (the Benn Act, or as the Prime Minister calls it, the ‘Surrender Act’), Mr Johnson will be required to request another delay from the EU if a new deal hasn’t been reached by this day. 

He’s refusing to do this but won’t say how he’ll try to get around the law.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (L) will hold talks with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (R).
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (Left ) and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Right).
EPA

Opposition MPs and Conservative rebels are promising to do whatever’s necessary to prevent the UK from crashing out. 

That could involve passing new legislation, going to the Supreme Court to have Benn Act enforced, or trying to bring down the government through a confidence vote.

A government of national unity could then request a delay before calling an election.

In an unusual move, parliament will sit this Saturday, so the Prime Minister can update parliament on the EU Summit and his plans. 

The following week, on Monday 21 October we'll expect the Scottish Court ruling.

The body will decide whether a letter requesting a Brexit extension can be signed on behalf of the government, should Mr Johnson refuse to do so.

Then on Thursday 31 October at 11pm, the current Brexit deadline rolls around.

So, what’s likely to happen?

A meeting between Mr Johnson and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has sparked some life back into talks and there’s increased optimism that a deal could be struck at the very last minute.

But there are still big disagreements over customs arrangements in Ireland and, even if an agreement is reached, there is a chance MPs in Westminster could reject it.

Boris Johnson Meets Irish Taoiseach To Discuss Brexit Deal
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (R) with Ireland's Leo Varadkar (L) on 10 October in Liverpool, England.
Getty

Former British prime minister Theresa May’s deal was voted down three times.

If a formal agreement isn’t signed off on before the EU summit, the British PM will find himself forced to write a letter on 19 October requesting another Brexit delay.

One of his ministers, Andrea Leadsom, has suggested he could write two letters; one requesting a day as required by law, the other saying he doesn’t want one. 

Andrea Leadsom resigned (AAP)
Andrea Leadsom.
AAP

That could leave EU chiefs in a difficult situation. 

“I think what they would do in that case is say ‘you need a couple more days to discuss with parliament or for a court to rule, so let’s set aside some time the following week and we’ll discuss the terms of an extension then’”, says the Institute for Government’s Georgina Wright.

What about a snap election? Or a second referendum?

Both remain possible however of the two scenarios it is more likely voters would head to the polls.

To call an election under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, two-thirds of MPs need to back the move.

Labour and other opposition parties say they will, once a no-deal Brexit has been ruled out.

Current polls suggest the Conservatives should win a snap election, but that could change if Mr Johnson fails to get the UK out of the EU on time.  

Even Brexit experts don’t want to predict what’s going to happen.

“All options are on the table,” Ms Wright said.

“If we have an extension, it doesn’t get rid of ‘no deal’, it simply delays it. The UK could still revoke Article 50, or in that time there could be a general election, where some parties commit to another referendum”.

More than three years after the UK voted to leave the EU, no-one can say for sure how this saga will end.  

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch