The House of Commons rejection of the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement on Tuesday has dramatically altered the dynamics of an extension request by the United Kingdom for Article 50 – the statute that allows an EU member to leave the bloc.
Before Tuesday’s vote that saw the British parliament resoundingly reject the Brexit deal for a second time, the plan for a short extension would have granted the UK another chance to find a solution without holding European elections at the end of May. This now seems largely pointless, as a technical extension for less than two months to allow the completion of legislative work is now seen as unfeasible as it would be nearly impossible to get the remaining 27 EU members to unanimously agree.
Brussels now wants to hear a new “reasoned case” for an extension that can lead to a specific result by the time a one-off extension comes to an end, an EU official told New Europe.
“Prolong the negotiations? For what?,” Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator for Brexit, asked MEPs at the European Parliament’s plenary session in Strasbourg on Wednesday morning. “Why would we extend these discussions? The negotiations on Article 50 are over. We have a treaty. Here it is,” said Barnier, who added that the EU “has gone as far as we could” to provide encouraging changes to MPs to vote for the deal in Commons. It is now London’s turn, he said, “the UK must tell us what it wants for our future relationship”.
“The EU27 will expect a credible justification for a possible extension and its duration. The smooth functioning of the EU institutions will need to be ensured,” said European Council President Donald Tusk after Tuesday’s vote in Commons, though he expressed little enthusiasm, along with the Commission, for a Brexit delay.
An EU official told New Europe that a short extension would not end the deadlock in the House of Commons and that UK Prime Minister Theresa May could run out of time to negotiate further assurances that would allow her to build a majority for the Withdrawal Agreement.