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BREXIT: UK Parliament Rejects Withdrawal Agreement [UPDATED]

21 January 2019

On 15 January 2019, the United Kingdom parliament voted overwhelmingly (by 432 votes to 202) against the withdrawal deal negotiated between the government and the EU. On 16 January, the UK Prime Minister survived a vote of no confidence. The government has until Monday 21 January 2019 to present a plan B to parliament for another vote. The debate and vote on this plan B, and any amendments tabled before then, is expected to be held on 29 January 2019.

While the article 50 process means that the UK will leave the EU on 29 March 2019, with or without a ratified deal, there are several ways that no-deal Brexit may be averted before then:

A UK government request for an extension of the article 50 period may be approved by the EU, for example in order to hold a general election, or a second referendum to ratify the withdrawal agreement; Parliament may approve a different withdrawal agreement, which would however also need to be acceptable to the EU (the UK government would probably have to drop some of its “red lines” to achieve this, and the EU is only likely to agree changes to the political declaration on a future relationship); The government may unilaterally revoke article 50, effectively cancelling Brexit.

Orderly Brexit

If the deal is eventually ratified:

  • Free movement will continue until the end of the transition period (31 December 2020 unless extended);
  • All EU citizens in the UK before this date will have until 30 June 2021 to register, through the EU Settlement Scheme;
  • Family members in a relationship with the EU citizen before the end of the transition period will be able to join those with settled status at any future date;
  • The rights of UK nationals resident in the EU before the end of the transition period will be similarly protected;
  • New immigration rules, applying to EU nationals arriving after transition, should come into effect by January 2021

Disorderly Brexit

EU Citizens in the UK

In a no-deal Brexit scenario, with no transition period, the EU Settlement Scheme will still operate but the cut-off dates will be brought forward.

  • Only EU citizens already in the UK by Brexit day (i.e. 29 March 2019) will qualify, and they will have to apply by 31 December 2020;
  • Family members in a relationship with the EU citizen before Brexit day will be able to join those with settled status until 29 March 2022.

The new immigration rules are unlikely to be ready for implementation by 29 March 2019. Section 2 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 states that “EU-derived domestic legislation as it has effect in domestic law immediately before exit day, continues to have effect in domestic law on and after exit day.” This means the UK would unilaterally grant EU citizens arriving after Brexit largely similar rights as entrants before Brexit, until new immigration rules take effect.


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