Parliamentary process means that withdrawal talks cannot run to 29th March itselfby Georgina Wright / October 1, 2018 / Leave a comment
Less than 180 days to go and the pressure is on. Talks between the UK and the EU are at deadlock, with the intractable Irish border problem the biggest stumbling block. But here’s the catch: they must also set aside time for the deal to be reviewed and ratified by both sides.
In the United Kingdom, parliament must vote through the withdrawal agreement into law, while on the European side, it must receive the support from member states and the European parliament.
We all know that the clock is ticking. But political process on both sides means the real deadline is not 29th March itself. So just how much time is there?
On the EU’s side, Danuta Huebner, who chairs the European parliament’s Brexit committee, has suggested that approval could be granted as late as the 11th March 2019. Meanwhile, the fact that the EU commission has continually updated EU capitals and institutions throughout the negotiations means that they would be unlikely to reject the agreement—even if it were presented to them as late as March.
But there are several reasons why delaying the vote until March would be politically problematic. First, although national parliaments in the EU will not be voting on the withdrawal agreement, some heads of governments may still be still required, in line with their own parliamentary traditions, to discuss the deal before and after the vote takes place. The Danish parliament’s European committee, for example, has a strong tradition of organising hearings ahead of EU votes and, in some cases, has even managed to influence the government’s position.
Second, the EU is conscious that the longer it discusses the terms of the UK’s exit, the less time it will have to discuss the future trade and security relationship. The way negotiations are organised means that discussions about the future can only take place once a withdrawal agreement has been reached. Many predict these discussions to be far more complex and question whether a future deal can be reached during the transition period which, providing it goes ahead, will end in December 2020.
Third, businesses on both sides are demanding greater clarity on the UK’s position after March 2019. For them, the longer the talks last, the less time they have to draw up new plans.