With just weeks before the UK leaves the EU the House of Commons still hasn’t approved an Article 50 withdrawal agreement increasing calls for delaying Brexit beyond March 29th 2019.
To extend Article 50 all EU27 member states must unanimously agree to the extension, if just one member state objects the UK leaves the EU on the 29th of March 2019: unless the UK revokes the Article 50 withdrawal notice which results in the UK Remaining in the EU indefinitely.
To date EU leaders have indicated they’d be willing to extend Article 50 for a short period of time under specific scenarios: wanting more time to renegotiate the current Article 50 withdrawal agreement apparently isn’t one of those acceptable scenarios.
Scenarios the EU27 Might Accept an Article 50 Extension
1. More Time to Implement the Withdrawal Agreement
If the current Article 50 Withdrawal Agreement is passed by the UK and EU Parliaments, but there’s not enough time to pass the relevant legislation to implement the withdrawal agreement.
It’s highly unlikely any EU member state would object to a short (1-3 month) extension to pass legislation for an EU negotiated withdrawal agreement.
2. More Time to Prepare for a No-Deal Brexit
If the Article 50 Withdrawal Agreement is rejected by either the UK or EU Parliaments and March the 29th is quickly approaching there might not be enough time for both the UK and EU27 member states to pass relevant ‘no-deal’ Brexit legislation to prepare for a no Article 50 agreement withdrawal.
It makes sense to extend Article 50 for a few months so the 28 countries involved can prepare better, but it’s hard to predict how each member state would vote, some EU member states have more/less at stake from a no-deal Brexit, it only takes one EU country to vote NO to an extension to scupper a delay.
3. Time for a General Election and People’s Vote
If there’s a change in political direction for example with MPs leaving the main political parties to join The Independent Group a minority Conservative government could be forced to call a general election before March 29th.
A general election takes at least five weeks if initiated by the UK government or seven weeks if followed by a successful vote of no confidence in the government.
If one of the main political parties ran on a manifesto to offer a new EU referendum (a 2nd People’s Vote) the EU27 might be open to extending Article 50 in the hope the UK votes to Remain in the EU.
There’s a problem with organising another referendum, a referendum could take between 22-28 weeks to organise putting the UK and EU27 through even more Brexit uncertainty and would mean the UK would have to put MEPs forward for the May European Parliament elections!