There are now 100 days left before the United Kingdom leaves the European Union. Brexit, the divorce between the UK and EU, comes into effect on March 29, at 11pm London time.
But even through there’s so little time left, no one knows what’s going to happen — and the events in London and Brussels since early December merely serve to underline the uncertainties that lie ahead.
There is, however, a deal at hand — a 585-page legal text that was agreed between the UK government of Prime Minister Theresa May and the European Union and its 27 remaining members.
But that deal has yet to be ratified by the UK parliament — whether it be slightly modified, as May has requested the EU27, or not — and must be passed at Westminster on or before January 21 if it is to take effect.
And as it stands right now, May has conceded she simply doesn’t have enough votes, either within her divided Conservative party or with help from opposition MPs, to get that bill passed.
On Monday, December 10, she withdrew the bill from a vote set for the next day, triggering a no-confidence vote a day later from Brexiteers in her Conservative party who want a clean break from the EU, with or without a deal. May survived that no confidence vote by 200 to 117, vote the following Wednesday.
With one-third of her party in rebellion and opposed to her leadership — even more are opposed to the deal itself — she still lacks the numbers to get the withdrawal agreement approved, May has committed to bringing it back to parliament in the New Year, likely for the week of January 14. That leaves one week for it to be signed off and approved before a hard and irrevocable deadline for approval of January 21. Time is clearly tight.
The European Commission — the cabinet-like body that runs the EU on a day-today basis — and the leaders of the EU27 have said there’s no room for any more changes, the Brexit deal is the Brexit deal, take it or leave it.
No one knows what will happen, whether there will be a deal, no deal, a second referendum, or the whole project might be delayed or scrapped altogether. But with just 100 days left before that March 29 deadline, governments across Europe and the EU, the UK government and businesses in Britain, Ireland and the continent are stepping up plans for a no deal “hard Brexit” scenario.