Q&A: Uncertainty remains, but it’s now highly unlikely the UK will leave on March 29

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Q&A: Uncertainty remains, but it’s now highly unlikely the UK will leave on March 29

  


A view of the Palace of Westminster. Stock picture
A view of the Palace of Westminster. Stock picture

What exactly happened last night?

The British parliament voted to request an extension from the European Union which would push back the date that the UK leaves the EU.

The House of Commons agreed to look for a short extension if a deal can be agreed, to allow the legislation needed to get through, or a long extension if a deal can’t be agreed as has been the case to date.

The parliament also rejected postponing Brexit to allow a second referendum to take place. A vote which would have seen parliament wrest control and have a series of indicative votes to agree what it does have a majority support for was also rejected – but only by a very small majority.

So that means Britain will now not leave on March 29?

Technically, no. Britain’s leave date is still enshrined in statute for the moment and it will remain there until legislation is brought to change it. So the legal position remains that Britain is still leaving on March 29, whether there is a deal in place or not. But it looks very unlikely now from a political perspective at least that the UK will leave next month.

What happens now?

There are two things that will happen before a decision is made on an extension. The first is that Theresa May will bring her deal back to parliament for a third meaningful vote. There are behind-the-scenes negotiations going on between the DUP and the Tory hardliners and Mrs May’s allies in a last-minute bid to get the deal over the line.

But it is a big leap for her to shepherd the divorce deal through and without it the UK will then need to petition the EU for a longer extension.

It will need to decide just how long to ask for and then the EU will need to decide unanimously to grant the extension.

Will the EU grant an extension?

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In all likelihood yes, but it will depend on how long of a reprieve the UK will ask for and for what purpose.

A decision will have to be made unanimously by the EU Council (leaders of each member state). The next council meeting will take place on March 21.

How long will that extension be?

There are differing views on the length of an extension that the EU should grant Theresa May, with many in Europe insisting there must be a plan in place before any deal will be ratified.

Mrs May has warned her MPs that this essentially means there will be conditions attached to a delay.

If the UK stays in beyond June, voters will be obliged to elect MEPs and it is complicated to organise that if the UK will not be a part of the bloc for the full five-year term.

There has been a suggestion from some senior EU figures that the EU should grant as long an extension as possible so the UK can come to a consensus.

Irish Independent

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