The latest Brexit update from Grayling Manchester

Friday, 12th April 2019

Guest blog by Chris Peacock, Grayling Manchester

Last night, the EU 27 Leaders and Theresa May agreed that exit day will be moved from April 12th to October 31st 2019. The big talking point during the Summit was not whether there would be an extension, but rather how long such an extension would be. The October date is seen as a compromise between President Macon, who wanted a shorter extension, and Chancellor Merkel, who preferred a longer one. It also provides enough time for the EU to hold elections, choose a new European Commission and pass a budget.

The agreement noted that if the UK could ratify the Withdrawal Agreement and Future Political Declaration before 31st October, then exit day would take place on the 1st of the month following ratification. This is being seen as a win for Theresa May who was calling for a flexible exit date.

The UK now has until the 22nd of May to ratify the Withdrawal Agreement and Future Political Declaration if it is to avoid holding EU elections. In the event that the UK doesn’t hold EU elections, the UK will leave the EU on May 31st. With the UK Parliament now going into recess until April 23rd and no sign of progress in the talks between the Conservative and Labour Parties, the UK is highly likely to participate in EU elections.

The agreement reconfirms that the Withdrawal Agreement will not be renegotiated, however, a review of progress will be held between the EU 27 and the UK in June. Nonetheless, this means there remains little chance of the controversial Irish Backstop being renegotiated with the result that the DUP and many Conservative Brexiteers remain unlikely to back any future Brexit deal in the UK Parliament.

With MPs in Westminster still split there seems no route through the deadlock without an agreement between the Labour and Conservative front benches and the length of extension removes much of the time pressure on the current Labour / Conservative talks on the Future Political Declaration. In terms of the electoral processes that could break the deadlock, whilst the length of extension leaves plenty of time to hold a general election before October 31st, there is probably not enough time to hold a referendum.

The extension is also likely to result in Theresa May facing further calls to resign from her own party. However, in theory there is no way that Conservative MPs on their own can force May out.

Last night’s developments primarily extend the uncertainty. The EU have also indicated that a further extension beyond October 31st is possible. However, there are still only three final Brexit options. Leave with a deal, remain or leave without a deal.