That’s the collective sound the UK population made when they heard that the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal had been given a complete thumbs down by the House of Commons.
As it turns out, 432 MPs didn’t want to sign off on her proposed EU divorce bill, compared to just 202 who did. That list of objectors included a number of significant Tory rebels and 118 Conservatives in total, which rather increases the pressure on the leadership of Theresa May.
It was also the largest defeat on a vote in governmental history.
So what happens now? Well, she faces a rather awkward edition of Prime Minister’s Questions at 12pm, where Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is expected to file a vote of no confidence in her leadership.
Later on today (Wednesday), politicians will then vote on that no confidence motion, although the PM is expected to survive that given that she retains the support of most of her cabinet and the DUP.
The question here really isn’t about the Prime Minister herself – a point lost by Corbyn and his advisors, but instead getting the best Brexit deal for the UK.
The likelihood is that May and her team of advisors will now need to get back to Brussels, pronto, and iron out some of the cracks that make the current proposal so disastrous.
But Isn’t the Brexit Deadline March 29?
Yep, you’re right. Brexit was supposed to be signed, sealed and delivered so that the transition process could begin at the end of March.
But clearly, we are a million miles away from securing a deal that suits, particularly with the main thorny issue – that pesky Irish backstop – remaining such a hot potato.
The idea is simple enough: a safety net that would prevent physical border checks between Northern and the Republic of Ireland, but most politicians want this item scrubbed from the record.
Unfortunately, the EU seems unwilling to budge at this point.
And so for the time being at least, it appears as if Article 50 will not be triggered and some kind of delay will be necessary.
So What’s Jeremy Corbyn Up To?
Politics is, often, a world riddled with opportunism.
Typically, a landslide defeat – such as the one Theresa May has just experienced – would end up with the resignation of the Prime Minister, which would trigger a leadership battle.
But the PM won’t quit, not least until the Brexit divorce deal has been ratified, and so she will plough on for the foreseeable future.
That said, Jeremy Corbyn and Labour scent blood, and they want to force an immediate General Election to force the Tories out of power.
And so they will file a vote of no confidence, which will later be voted on by parliament. It’s an opportunity to force an election if the majority agrees that there is no confidence in May and her chums; and this could actually be one way for Tory rebels to oust their leader.
If the vote fails, the Conservatives will press on with securing a ‘better’ Brexit deal or, worst case scenario, begin preparations for a no deal outcome.
If the vote of no confidence succeeds, either May will resign and be replaced by a new Prime Minister, or a General Election will be called.
No Deal or a Second Referendum: Will Either Happen?
As it stands, no deal is the ‘default’ position; i.e. the UK will leave the European Union on March 29 without a formal agreement in place.
That would throw the UK economy into chaos, and our businesses would likely suffer as a result.
It is hoped that the government will go back to the EU and sweet talk their way to a extension of Article 50, after which new terms can be agreed and a more satisfactory agreement can be reached.
Of course, EU officials have no legal obligation to extend Article 50, and can basically tell us where to go.
At this point, a second referendum could be a possibility.
It would be wholly undemocratic and even unconstitutional; a whole new piece of legislation would have to be created and agreed in order to allow a second vote to happen.
But as we’ve seen so far, nothing has been straightforward in this most disastrous of political processes.
Do the Bookies Know Best?
You don’t see a bookmaker crippled by financial crisis, and that’s because more often than not they set their odds perfectly to reflect the probability of something happening.
The betting floor has numerous markets open, and even these offer no real consensus.
For example, the favourite for the ‘year of next General Election’ is 2019 at 5/4, but that’s only a smidge shorter than 2022 – the constitutional year of the next election – at 7/4.
Happily for Theresa May, she is 1/33 to survive the no confidence vote, while it’s a 1/8 shot that Article 50 is revoked and Brexit essentially cancelled prior to the March deadline.
Paddy Power, possibly tongue-in-cheek or maybe not, are offering odds on a variety of markets, including the introduction of food rationing in 2019 (12/1) and which commodity will be rationed first: fuel (7/1), milk (11/1) and olive oil, bizarrely, at 16/1 are the favourites; gin, meanwhile, is a terrifying 50/1 poke.