Latest Issue

This is what the latest Brexit extension news could mean for the UK

The latest extension granted in Brussels sees the possibility of Brexit being delayed until October. But what does that mean for the UK—particularly with the European Parliamentary elections looming?

By Prospect Team  

The UK will now participate in the 2019 European Parliamentary elections in May. Photo: PA

Theresa May has returned from Europe with a six-month extension to Brexit, following five hours of talks in Brussels.

The Prime Minister had initially asked for an extension until June 30th, with the option to leave sooner if Parliament was able to agree on her withdrawal agreement before then.

So, Halloween, is it?

Almost as heavy-handed a metaphor as the recent sewage leak in parliament, some might suggest…

This is longer than the other recent extensions.

Yes—EU leaders weren’t keen to grant another short extension only to have parliament fail to agree on a course of action in time. Again.

Angela Merkel apparently told May that she didn’t want to agree to a further delay only to end up having the same conversation again before too long.

European Council president Donald Tusk asked his “British friends” to “not waste this time.”

So what happens now?

The UK will likely participate in the European elections in May, unless it leaves without a deal.

Will people be happy with that?

It’s likely quite a few Leavers won’t be happy to receive information about their votes in European elections several years after they voted for Brexit, no.

But Remainers…

May well be quite happy.

Who will benefit, though, is less clear: one poll has shown that Labour might stand to do especially well in the European Elections, with some saying the result could hand the EU commission presidency to socialists.

It’s probably quite hard to realistically predict the result at this stage, however.

And what does Europe think?

Well, obviously, it varies. The prevailing mood in Germany, at least, is that the most important thing is to come to a workable agreement.

President Macron was reportedly less enthused, with Tusk warning him to not “humiliate” May in return for granting the extension.

What’s going to happen, then?

In the most basic terms, we’re back to the same quandary that has plagued parliament since circa June 2017. The ERG want a different Brexit to Theresa May, who wants a different Brexit to the DUP, who want a different Brexit to Labour leavers, who want something else entirely to Labour and Tory Remainers.

The outcome of the recent indicative votes shows that Parliament will still struggle to agree on any route forward—even the most popular options gained nowhere near enough votes to suggest they could get a parliamentary majority.

Speaking more practically, there’s a question as to what will happen at the different party conferences, which—unless parliament finds a way through the above before then—will include fierce debate over the Brexit stance of Labour and the Conservatives.

Given the long-running arguments over whether or not each party is sufficiently honouring its Brexit commitments from the last party conference season, expect yet more complication.

Speaking in Brussels shortly before 2am on Thursday, May said: “I do not pretend the next few weeks will be easy or that there is a simple way to break the deadlock in parliament.”

“But we have a duty as politicians to find a way to fulfil the democratic decision of the referendum.”

Right. And what are the ways out? 

Again, much the same as ever: no deal, May’s deal, another deal, second referendum.

Or there could be a general election—although that won’t solve Brexit, but may shift the parliamentary maths.

But at least there’s longer to sort it out…

 …and plan that Halloween costume.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to

More From Prospect