UK to request further extension to Article 50
The Prime Minister made a statement on 2 April 2019, confirming that the UK would be seeking a further short extension to Article 50, to 22 May.
In her statement the Prime Minister also invited the Leader of the Opposition to enter into direct talks in order to try and break the current Parliamentary deadlock and “ensure” that the UK leaves the EU “with a deal” and in a “timely and orderly” way.
The Prime Minister reiterated that the Withdrawal Agreement (which includes the Northern Ireland backstop protocol) was not open to re-negotiation and that the focus of any talks would be on the Political Declaration setting out the framework for the UK’s Future Relationship with the EU (the “Future Relationship”).
If talks between the Government and the Leader of the Opposition result in a “unified approach” to the Future Relationship, the Prime Minister said that any agreed plan would then go back to the House of Commons for approval.
If talks end without agreement, the Prime Minister confirmed that the House of Commons would then be given the opportunity to hold a series of votes on what the Future Relationship should be and that significantly, the Government would “abide by the decision of the House”.
The Prime Minister stated that the Government was seeking a short extension to 22 May in order to avoid taking part in European Parliamentary elections. The timetable proposed by the Prime Minister means that the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, to legislate for and ratify the terms of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, will need to be passed before 22 May.
However, as with the previous request to extend Article 50, any further request, including the conditions and length of any further extension, will be subject to the consent of the other 27 EU Member States. A special meeting of the European Council has already been scheduled for 10 April to discuss latest Brexit developments, including any further extension request by the UK.
Following last evening’s statement, the Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay has confirmed that talks between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn are scheduled to take place on 3 April.
In the interim, the default legal position remains that the UK will leave the EU on 12 April 2019 without a deal, in the absence of a deal or an extension to (or revocation) of Article 50.