How Parliament Might Tweak Brexit

A customs union amendment could gain momentum, and failure might be an option


On Saturday, MPs voted to not immediately approve a new Brexit deal struck by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the European Union until parliament had fully scrutinized the deal and passed a law implementing it. The outcome of the legislative process -- which may see MPs proposing amendments to revise or thwart the deal -- will determine whether and how the UK leaves the EU on October 31. As the legislation begins to work its way through parliament, Predata signals show that pressure to keep the UK in the EU customs union could mount, there’s relatively low interest in referendums, and expectations may be rising that a general election will happen soon. 

As Johnson’s deal works its way through parliament, the major question is which specific amendments to the withdrawal legislation will gain traction? One possibility is that MPs will push to keep the UK in the European customs union, and there seems to be notable pressure for it online. Recent spikes of activity on web pages related to the customs union and European common market were not seen in the days before the original Brexit deadline back in March. Internet users are scrutinizing these subjects, a fact that might translate to parliamentary action.


Another possibility is an amendment mandating a public referendum to approve the withdrawal bill. At this stage, that idea doesn’t seem to have an unusually high level of online momentum. Activity on English-language web pages about referendums and the original Brexit referendum of June 2016 was relatively muted.


Prime Minister Johnson has been adamant that the UK leave the EU by the October 31 deadline. If Parliament fails to pass the withdrawal legislation, Johnson might call a general election. Internet users seem to be considering that possibility. Activity on web pages related to general elections in the UK was at its highest level all year last week. Ultimately, that could suggest online observers are skeptical Parliament will deliver the withdrawal legislation by the deadline.