EU Extends A50 Notice Period Again

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The UK was supposed to be leaving the EU on 29th March 2019, but the Prime Minister was unable to get her withdrawal agreement through parliament. It required her to ask the EU for a short extension (which expires on Friday), hoping that pressure would be put on MPs to finally endorse the deal. It didn’t happen and a decision by the Speaker of the House of Commons not to allow repeated presentation of the same bill ultimately left her with no option but to enter into talks with Labour about finding a compromise Brexit solution. Those talks are continuing, but show very little prospect of bearing fruit, not least because Mrs May thinks that the only side that must compromise is Labour.

The machinations of UK politics rumble on, but time waits for no man. With the UK set to crash out of the EU on 12/04/19, the EU convened an emergency summit, yesterday, at which Mrs May presented her request for a further extension until the end of June, with the tacit agreement that the UK would participate in the next round of European Parliament elections, unless a domestic agreement can be swiftly arrived at.

The EU leaders rejected May’s case for a 30th June extension and, in the end, offered a longer extension until 31st October 2019. However, the extension can be terminated by the UK if it can get the withdrawal bill through parliament. The majority of EU states favoured an even longer extension until March of next year or the end of this year, but the French President argued for a shorter extension. The EU leaders, who can do compromise, settled on “all hallows een” as the exit date. Should the UK not manage to pass the withdrawal bill, it would crash out to “no deal” on 1/11/19.

May had vowed not to accept any extension beyond June as PM, but has refused to say that she will resign now that the extension is much longer (the fact that it can be terminated earlier provides her with a fig leaf). “Nothing has changed”, to coin a phrase, but the UK has more time to try to resolve the mess it finds itself in.

Parliament remains hopelessly split on the way forward, but government/Labour talks must be allowed to play out before anything definitive can happen. For many months, opinion polls have consistently shown that a majority of participants want to remain in the EU.

Dr. Mike Campbell is a British scientist and freelance writer. Mike got his doctorate in Ghent, Belgium and has worked in Belgium, France, Monaco and Austria since leaving the UK. As a writer, he specialises in business, science, medicine and environmental subjects.