Parliament votes to request an extension to Article 50

Posted in UK and EU legal framework

The House of Commons has voted by a clear majority (413 – 202) to approve the Government’s motion seeking agreement with the EU on an extension to Article 50.

Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty is the legal mechanism by which a Member State leaves the EU. It provides for a two year timetable for negotiations on the terms of withdrawal by the departing Member State.  The UK served notice under Article 50 on 29 March 2017 which means that the UK is currently scheduled to leave the EU (with or without a deal) at 11:00pm on 29 March 2019.

The Government motion to seek an extension to Article 50 notes the previous votes in the House on 12 and 13 March (see blog posts on the second meaningful vote and vote against no deal) and agrees that:

  • if the House has passed a resolution approving the negotiated withdrawal agreement and the framework for the future relationship for the purposes of section 13(1) (b) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 by 20 March 2019, then the Government will seek to agree with the European Union a one-off extension of the period specified in Article 50(3) for a period ending on 30 June 2019 for the purpose of passing the necessary EU exit legislation;
  • if the House has not passed a resolution approving the negotiated withdrawal agreement and the framework for the future relationship for the purposes of section 13(1)(b) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 by 20 March 2019, then it is highly likely that the European Council at its meeting the following day would require a clear purpose for any extension, not least to determine its length, and that any extension beyond 30 June 2019 would require the United Kingdom to hold European Parliament elections in May 2019.

The wording of the motion indicates that the Government is planning to hold a third meaningful vote on the withdrawal agreement and framework for the future relationship early next week (i.e. by 20 March) in order for the Government to be in a position to submit a request to the EU, for either a short or longer extension to Article 50, in time for the EU Council meeting of the EU27 heads of state on 21 and 22 March.

Any request for an extension of the Article 50 notice period will be subject to the consent of all 27 EU Member States and the conditions and the length of any extension will still then need be negotiated between the UK and the EU.

In the interim, the default position remains that the UK will exit the EU on 29 March without a deal unless either a deal is reached or the Article 50 notice period is extended or the notice revoked.

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