Monday, 28 October 2019

Johnson accepts Art 50 (3) Extension

Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP
Licence OGK V 3

Jane Lambert

Art 50 (3) of the Treaty of European Union provides that the European treaties will cease to apply to a state that gives notice of its intention to withdraw from the European Union from the date an agreement on the terms of its withdrawal comes into force or two years from its notification unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend that period.

Although a draft withdrawal agreement was reached by negotiators for the British government and the European Union on 14 Nov 2018, it was rejected by the United Kingdom Parliament on no less than three occasions.  As a result of those rejections, the government of the United Kingdom requested and was granted two extensions the latter of which was due to end at 23:00 on 31 Oct 2019.

Largely as a result of concessions that would result in an internal frontier within the United Kingdom, the British government has negotiated a second withdrawal agreement.  That has still to be approved by the Commons in a meaningful vote though the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill which would implement the agreement has got as far as second reading.

Under the provisions of the European Union (Withdrawal) (No 2) Act 2019 the prime minister was obliged to apply for a further extension if a withdrawal agreement was not approved by a meaningful vote on 19 Oct 2019, The prime minister complied with that obligation with less than the best of grace. Today the Council consented to the extension request in accordance with art 50 (3). Had it not been the European Union (Withdrawal) (No 2) Act 2019 the British government could have declined the offer of an extension but the statute removes his right to do so.  By a letter dated 28 Oct 2019, the prime minister has grudgingly accepted the offer of an extension until 31 Jan 2020.

As there are probably enough Labour MPs who would vote for the withdrawal agreement but nowhere near enough who would vote for a second referendum the overwhelming likelihood is that the second withdrawal agreement would be approved with the result that the UK would have left the European Union in the next few weeks.   The only way to stop it would be to hold a general election at the earliest possible moment and hope that parties in favour of remaining in the EU will improve sufficiently on their performance in 2017 to force a second referendum if not an outright revocation of the notice to withdraw.  That is an enormous longshot for the remain parties and it is not one that is likely to be understood easily by the public.   However, it is the only option that they have left.

Anyone wishing to talk about the prime minister's acceptance of an extension or brexit generally is welcome to call me on 020 7494 5252 during office hours or send me a message through my contact page.

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