Thursday, 11 April 2019

European Council Decision of 11 April 2019 extending the Period under art 50 (3) of the Treaty of European Union to 31 Oct 2019

Donald Tusk
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Another of the uncertainties that I mentioned in my March Brexit Briefing was the outcome of the special Council meeting of 10 April 2019 which President Tusk called on 29 March 2019 after the draft withdrawal agreement of 14 Nov 2018  was rejected by the House of Commons for the third time.  The reason for the meeting was that the United Kingdom was due to leave the European Union at 23:00 on 12 April 2019.

Even before she was obliged to do so by s.1 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2019, the Prime Minister applied for an extension of the notification of the period provided by art 50 (3) of the Treaty of European Union by a letter dated 5 April 2019.   The European Council referred to that letter in paragraph (8) of the recitals to its decision of 11 April 2019 extending that notice period to 31 Oct 2019 at the latest.

The decision consists of 14 paragraphs of recitals and 2 articles   Art 1 extends the notice period from 12 April 2019 to 31 Oct 2019. Art 2 inserts the condition of holding elections to the Europen Parliament on 22 May 2019 warning:
"This decision shall cease to apply on 31 May 2019 in the event that the United Kingdom has not held elections to the European Parliament in accordance with applicable Union law and has not ratified the Withdrawal Agreement by 22 May 2019."
As the Council also recited in paragraph (9):
"...... under Article 50(3) TEU, the Withdrawal Agreement may enter into force on an earlier date, should the Parties complete their respective ratification procedures before 31 October 2019. Consequently, the withdrawal should take place on the first day of the month following the completion of the ratification procedures or on 1 November 2019, whichever is the earliest. "
As several MPs had urged the British government to disrupt the EU's business if it were granted a long adjournment paragraph (10) of the recitals noted:
"This further extension cannot be allowed to undermine the regular functioning of the Union and its institutions. Furthermore, it will have the consequence that the United Kingdom will remain a Member State until the new withdrawal date, with full rights and obligations in accordance with Article 50 TEU, and that the United Kingdom has a right to revoke its notification at any time. If the United Kingdom is still a Member State on 23-26 May 2019, and if it has not ratified the Withdrawal Agreement by 22 May 2019, it will be under an obligation to hold the elections to the European Parliament in accordance with Union law. In the event that those elections do not take place in the United Kingdom, the extension should cease on 31 May 2019. The European Council takes note of the commitment by the United Kingdom to act in a constructive and responsible manner throughout the extension period in accordance with the duty of sincere cooperation, and expects the United Kingdom to fulfil this commitment and Treaty obligation in a manner that reflects its situation as a withdrawing Member State. To this effect, the United Kingdom shall facilitate the achievement of the Union’s tasks and shall refrain from any measure which could jeopardise the attainment of the Union’s objectives, in particular when participating in the decision-making processes of the Union."
The decision  also made clear in paragraph (12) of the recitals that the withdrawal agreement could not be renegotiated:
"This extension excludes any re-opening of the Withdrawal Agreement. Any unilateral commitment, statement or other act by the United Kingdom should be compatible with the letter and the spirit of the Withdrawal Agreement, and must not hamper its implementation. Such an extension cannot be used to start negotiations on the future relationship."
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