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15 March 2019

Publish date: 15/03/2019

Deal or No Deal?

Unlike Edmond's game show with 22 boxes to navigate, we are now facing a metaphorical 27 with no banker to offer a risk-free way out. Following the governments successful motion to extend the BREXIT deadline, how the EU will respond to our request is unknown. Arguably you may think its in everybody's main interest to acquiesce, but not everyone may think so. Certainly, the President of the European Council made it clear that "the EU will expect a credible justification for a possible extension and its duration". So where does this leave us?

If we do not get an extension, we are back to a very real outcome of a no deal BREXIT on the 29th March. Next week the Government will meet again to vote on the withdrawal agreement but from the last vote, there are still 149 votes standing in the way and the backstop hasn't been altered. If we get the extension, we buy some breathing space from a no deal on the 29th March. The Government appeared clear in their motion that this would be a one-off extension and explicitly stated so; the implication being we would know exactly what was happening by 30th June. The difficulty arises however, in the second part of the motion which states that any further extension would 'probably' require the UK to take part in the EU elections. For local authorities who have already raised the prospect of holding elections, at what point will the government advise preparations should take place if at all?

The next EU elections are scheduled sometime between 23rd and 26th May and crucially those elected will meet for the first time on 2nd July. This appears to be the date by which many commentators are identifying as a critical point. Jean-Claude Juncker has stated if the UK is still part of the EU at the end of May "it will be legally required to hold these elections, in line with the rights and obligations of all Member States as set out in the Treaties". German Bundestag's Europe Department has suggested the Commission could commence treaty infringement proceedings if elections don't take place.

Before the votes took place yesterday, the government published a short briefing paper entitled Parameters of Extending Article 50. This sets out quite nicely the considerations of an extension alongside EU election participation.

If you want to hear the voice of the Ministry or benefit from our bespoke BREXIT Panel, there is still time to book onto our Weekend School. Bookings close today so if you want to reserve the conference or simply attend one day please click here and follow the links.

Best wishes

Helen McGrath

Head of Public Affairs