House of Commons Library publishes briefing on extending Article 50

The briefing reminds readers that the House of Commons voted against amendments providing for an Article 50 extension when it debated Brexit next steps on 29 January.

Statements from the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and from EU Member States have suggested that there is a willingness to agree to an extension of the Article 50 period if the UK requests this, but only if it is for a specific, stated purpose.

The briefing then examines scenarios in which a request for Article 50 could be made.

It has been suggested that an extension of Article 50 could be requested if the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) is approved shortly before 29 March 2019 in order to provide for extra Parliamentary time to pass legislation to prepare for Brexit. Legislation to implement the WA must also be enacted prior to the UK leaving the EU.

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, then more time may also be needed to pass other legislation required to prepare for Brexit, as well as statutory instruments required to prepare the statute book for Brexit. The briefing states that only 142 of the 600 statutory instruments required to prepare the statute book for exit day had made their way through Parliament as of 11 February 2019.

If there were to be a General Election, either as a result of the Labour party succeeding in a vote of confidence in the Government under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 or if the Government itself decided to hold an election, there would “almost certainly” need to be an Article 50 extension, the briefing states.

If there were to be another referendum, a longer extension would be required to allow Parliament to pass legislation to allow for such referendum to take place. This would also involve question testing by the Electoral Commission and would be followed by a statutory campaign period of ten weeks. The amount of time required in Parliament would be particularly hard to predict. Additional time would then be required if further negotiations with the EU were needed under Article 50.

The briefing also covers what might happen if Article 50 is extended beyond May 2019, which is when the European Parliament is due to hold elections currently planned to be without UK participation. In addition, the briefing examines the situation if Article 50 were to be extended beyond 1 July, given that the new Parliament is due to sit for the first time on 2 July. To access the briefing, click here.