Peter Foster @pmdfoster Europe Editor of the Daily Telegraph. Formerly based in Washington DC, Beijing and New Delhi. Opinions my own. Mar. 28, 2019 2 min read

Right. #Brexit uncertainty abounds, but some things are pretty certain, and MPs' coming choices are now coming into sharp focus.

So take half a step back from Westminster fog, and perhaps it's not as quite as cloudy as it seems. Here's where we are #Brexit 1/Thread.

1. MPs can vote over May's divorce deal tomorrow. This is unlikely, I agree, but if they do, they have until May 22 to complete the paperwork.

If they do not back the deal, then the May 22 option is gone, per terms agreed with EU last week. /2

At which point, the UK is hurtling towards a 'no deal' - which MPs have rejected by 160-400 votes.

So assuming they don't want a 'no deal' what can they do?

They can activate second option, which is to ask the EU for a long extension. /3

MPs could try and pass the Withdrawal Agreement next week and go an beg the EU for an extension to May 22 - but noises on that from Brussels not so encouraging. /4

That means, when Govt puts down Statutory Instrument for holding EU elections (a condition of a long extension) then MPs must logically accept this.

Tactically, this is why No 10 wants to put the Divorce Deal to a vote without the Political Declaration. So MPs own this choice/4

Would EU leaders axiomatically grant that long extension, even if the UK did not have a firm plan?

Chats with EU contacts suggest they almost certainly would. "It would change the dynamic," says one. "The UK signalling it accepted UK citizens were still EU citizens". /5

The alternative is to refuse, and accept a 'no deal' - which would be odd given majority in Parliament against this.

The EU would then set a 'glidepath' to a 'no deal' which - as @Mij_Europe and others have pointed out, would be increasingly short. /6

But if EU27 gave exit path to May 22 (eve of EU elections) that still leaves small window to pass the deal - perhaps with a Customs Union or Referendum rider attached. /7

But at that point, UK at mercy of EU leaders.

If WA passed v late with Customs Union rider, then only v short extra extension needed to implement.

But if rider was PV or for GE, then you would be begging to hold late EU elections to create space for either. /8

This is very messy territory indeed - and EU is signalling very hard against at the moment.

It might be one reason why EU leaders decide not to set a 'glidepath' to exit, but a nosedive - ie April 13, to slam the door on any more of this chaos. /9

But equally, when it comes to is - is the mess of late EP elections worse than the mess of a 'no deal' (which Germany in particular is really keen to prevent)?

Really hard to predict response to these things til they actually happen. /10

So there you have it.

The walls are closing in now.

One by one, the branches of the decision-tree are being pruned away.

It's both dastardly complicated...and deadly simple. #Brexit 11/ends

You can follow @pmdfoster.


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