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With the UK due to the leave the EU on 29 March 2019, the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) agreed by the UK Government and EU in November 2018 has yet to be approved by the House of Commons. Since the House of Commons rejected the WA on 15 January 2019, there have been a series of Government statements and votes in the House of Commons on the Government’s Brexit strategy.

The Government has engaged in further negotiations with the EU on the WA, in order to obtain changes to the most contentious element of the WA, the Northern Ireland/Ireland backstop, that would be acceptable to a majority in the House of Commons. EU leaders have however stated repeatedly that they are unwilling to re-open renegotiations on the WA, but would consider making changes to the Political Declaration on the future UK-EU relationship. Talks are ongoing with the EU to discuss possible new text that could provide reassurances over the backstop alongside the WA.

On 26 February the Prime Minister committed to holding a vote in the House of Commons on 13 March on leaving the EU without a deal and, if this proposition is rejected, a further vote on 14 March on seeking an extension to the Article 50 period in order to delay the UK’s departure from the EU. This would occur if a second “meaningful vote” on the WA, scheduled for 12 March, results in another defeat for the Government.

The EU Court of Justice has ruled that the UK could choose to revoke its Article 50 notice unilaterally. The Government firmly rejects doing this. The most likely route leading to an Article 50 revocation would be if another referendum on Brexit was held, with an option to remain in the EU.   Another referendum is proposed by the People’s Vote campaign, supported by a cross-party group including a small number of Conservative MPs.

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