There are three main opportunities for extensionby Simon Usherwood / May 31, 2018 / Leave a comment
To the casual observer, Brexit has gone on for bloody ages. But for those involved in the negotiations, time is more commonly seen as being in very short supply.
Currently, the plan is that the UK leaves the European Union on 29th March 2019, followed by a transition until the end of 2020, and then a new relationship. But there are good reasons to think that this won’t be enough time to do all that’s necessary.
Partly it’s about getting on top of all the detail that moving to the new relationship will involve, but mainly it’s a result of the continuing lack of clear strategic intent from the British government: it’s vastly more complicated (and time-consuming) to negotiate when you don’t know what you want.
As such, it’s useful already now—even before we get close to a deal on the withdrawal agreement—to think about how more time could be found. Six options present themselves, grouped into the three main periods of the timetable: Article 50, transition and post-transition.
First up, we might consider extending the Article 50 period. This needs the unanimous approval of the UK and the European Council and is probably the simplest of all the options, at least in terms of procedure.
This would allow as much time as is needed to conclude and ratify the withdrawal agreement, as well as laying the groundwork more fully for the future relationship. Indeed, it might even be possible in this model to move directly from membership to that new relationship, without any transition.
However, remaining as a member state would mean having to handle the election of new British MEPs in May 2019 and involvement in negotiations on the EU’s multiannual financial framework. Any suspicion that this was a prelude to abandoning Brexit altogether might also make it unviable.
It is possible to do things a bit differently, by sticking to the current timetable for reaching an Article 50 deal but with a later withdrawal date than March 2019. This is allowed under Article 50 and might be justified as an attempt to stick to the schedule, while also leaving some room just in case there is political or economic need.
Again, this could be used as a way to jump straight from membership to the new relationship.…