EU agrees to further extension to Article 50

Posted in The Withdrawal Agreement UK and EU legal framework

The EU has agreed to a further extension to Article 50.

Following a meeting of EU leaders on 10 April, the has Council agreed to extend Article 50 to 31 October 2019. A statement released by the Council confirms that the extension should “only last as long as necessary”, and allows the UK to leave earlier if a deal can be agreed in the meantime. If the Withdrawal Agreement is ratified by both parties before 31 October, the withdrawal will take place on the first day of the following month.

However, a condition of the extension is that the UK will need to participate in European Parliament elections in May. If it fails to do so, the UK will leave the EU on 1 June 2019.

The UK subsequently confirmed its agreement to the proposed extension.

Talks will now continue between the Government and the Opposition in an effort to break the current impasse. In this regard, it will be noted that the Council’s statement “reiterates that there can be no opening of the Withdrawal Agreement, and that any unilateral commitment, statement or other act should be compatible with the letter and the spirit of the Withdrawal Agreement and must not hamper its implementation”.  However, the Council confirmed that, although the extension cannot be used to start negotiations on the future relationship, “if the position of the United Kingdom were to evolve, the European Council is prepared to reconsider the Political Declaration on the future relationship”.

So far as domestic legislation is concerned, the definition of ‘exit day’ in section 20 of the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018 again needed to be amended. However, unlike the previous extension of Article 50, this did not require a positive vote in each House of Parliament. Section 2 of the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2019 amended paragraph 14 of Schedule 7 to the 2018 Act, which now provides that “a statutory instrument containing regulations under section 20(4) [amending the definition of exit day] is subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either each House of Parliament.” In other words, regulations changing the definition of exit day will be effective unless annulled by a vote of either House.

The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 (Exit Day) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2019 were made on 11 April, amending the definition of ‘exit day’ in section 20 of The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 to 31 October 2019 at 11pm.

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