Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools
You are here: Home Breaking news EU agrees Brexit 'cliff-edge' delay, with conditions

EU agrees Brexit 'cliff-edge' delay, with conditions

— filed under: , , ,
EU agrees Brexit 'cliff-edge' delay, with conditions

Theresa May - Photo EU Council

(BRUSSELS) - After lengthy debate at a summit in Brussels Thursday, EU leaders agreed a short Article 50 extension till 12 April, or 22 May if the UK Parliament approves Theresa May's Withdrawal Agreement next week.

If, as seems likely, the deal is not approved by the UK Parliament, the EU Council agrees to an extension until 12 April, and at the same time expects the UK to come up with a plan for the EU to consider.

The Council also said it would continue EU preparations for a 'no-deal' scenario.

At the summit, British Prime Minister May repeated requests sent in writing to the Council to extend the Article 50 period until 30 June, and to approve the so-called Strasbourg Political Declaration.

After lengthy discussion, the leaders came to a decision which laid out two scenarios:

The first scenario envisages the Withdrawal Agreement being passed by the House of Commons next week, in which case the European Council agrees to an extension until the 22nd of May.

If the Withdrawal Agreement is not approved by the House of Commons next week, the EU Council agrees to the second scenario of an extension until 12th April, "while expecting the United Kingdom to indicate a way forward".

"What this means in practice," said Council president Donald Tusk after the meeting, "is that, until that date, all options will remain open, and the cliff-edge date will be delayed."

"The UK Government will still have a choice of a deal, no-deal, a long extension or revoking Article 50," he added.

The 12 April date is now seen as key in terms of the UK deciding whether to hold European Parliament elections. If it has not decided to do so by then, the EU makes clear that the option of a long extension will automatically become impossible.

Mrs May, under pressure from all sides back home - including a public petition calling for Article 50 to be revoked, which has passed 2 million signatures - welcomed the agreement, which she can now take back to the House of Commons claiming she has achieved some changes.

She said she now had "legally binding assurances" on the Northern Ireland 'backstop'. The extension agreement subject to a successful vote next week  means she can heap pressure on MPs to agree the deal which they have already twice rejected by huge margins.

If Mrs May's alternative plan to avoid 'no-deal' involved a further extension, it would mean participation in the European Parliamentary elections. "I believe strongly that it would be wrong to ask people in the UK to participate in these elections three years after voting to leave the EU."

Mrs May now hopes that pressure from the threat of 'no-deal', a longer Article 50 extension and the possibility of having to take part in the European elections will force MPs to vote for her deal.

"We are now at the moment of decision," she said.

European Council (Art. 50) conclusions, 21 March 2019

Document Actions