What’s going on?
While Prime Minister Boris Johnson, backed by the majority of his party, was determined the UK would leave the EU on 31 October, with or without a deal, he ended up having to ask for a three-month extension. This was despite the fact that he had managed to agree a new deal with the EU. However, the bill implementing it has been put on hold and it won’t progress any further before the general election.
Calling an early election
An early general election was always expected to be called, but almost certainly after the Brexit deadline of 31 October, which ultimately proved to be the case. This is despite the fact that MPs had failed to back a motion on 28 October to call an early election – the third time they’d done so.
A two thirds Commons’ majority – 434 MPs in total - is required for such an election to be called, and it was unlikely that Johnson could achieve this. Instead, he introduced on 29th October, a short new law to specify the date of an early general election on 12 December, and which only required a simple majority. It passed the House of Lords the next day and received Royal Assent on 31 October.
What happens next with Brexit depends on the outcome of this election.
Implement the deal
Boris Johnson has just negotiated a new deal with the EU. This would require a new version of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill to be introduced in the new Parliament and it would have to go back to the beginning of its passage through Parliament.
The Conservatives’ plan is to get the bill completed in time for Brexit on 31 January 2020.
There could also be another referendum, which would certainly require a further delay to Brexit.
There are two options for another referendum – it could have the same legal status as the one in 2016, meaning it would be advisory, and the government would have to decide how to respond once the result was known.
The second option would be to hold a so-called "confirmatory" referendum, which would be between a particular Brexit deal and remain - or possibly with no deal as an option. The result of this kind of referendum would be legally binding.
Either way, the new referendum would require legislation to be held. There would also have to be time for the Electoral Commission to consider the question wording - especially if it's a referendum with more than two options.
Experts at the Constitution Unit at University College London say this could take a minimum of 22 weeks.
Labour, the SNP, The Independent Group for Change, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party all support holding another referendum.
The default position is still that, if no deal is passed by Parliament, the UK will leave the EU on 31 January without one.
Leaving without a deal means the UK would immediately exit the customs union and single market, which many businesses and politicians argue would be disastrous for the economy – both the UK’s and globally.
However, others say the risks are exaggerated. For example, the Brexit Party thinks the UK should leave without one, making it ‘clean break’ from the EU.
And finally - and probably most controversially - there is also the legal option of cancelling Brexit altogether, by revoking Article 50.
However, this is clearly something the current government under Boris Johnson is not considering, so this outcome is only likely if a change of government were to occur.
The Liberal Democrats have said that if they won a majority in the House of Commons, they would revoke Article 50 and cancel Brexit. If they don't get a majority, they will support another referendum.