EU Gives “Flextension” to the UK
Three days before the UK was due to leave the EU on 31 October 2019, the European Council agreed to give the UK a further extension on its notice period to leave the EU.
The draft decision becomes legally binding when signed by all 27 Remaining EU Member States.
The extension is until 31 January 2020 but the UK does not have to use all the time available.
The new regime is complicated so it's summarised in the table below:
|Event||UK leaves the EU||Withdrawal agreement would enter into force|
|November 2019: Parties to the Revised Withdrawal Agreement (UK and EU Member States) complete their ratification procedures in full||23:00 (GMT) on 30 November 2019||00:00 (GMT+1) on 1 December 2019|
|December 2019: Parties to the Revised Withdrawal Agreement (UK and EU Member States) complete their ratification procedures in full||23:00 (GMT) on 31 December 2019||00:00 (GMT+1) on 1 January 2020|
|January 2020: Parties to the Revised Withdrawal Agreement (UK and EU Member States) complete their ratification||23:00 (GMT) on 31 January 2020||00:00 (GMT+1) on 1 February 2020|
|31 January 2020: Parties do not complete their ratification procedure by 31 January 2020 and there is no extension||23:00 (GMT) on 31 January 2020||The agreement will not enter into force|
|31 January 2020: Parties do not complete their ratification procedure by 31 January 2020 and there is an extension||Whenever is agreed between the UK and the EU but the EU decides when an extension ends||Whenever is agreed between the UK and the EU but the EU decides when an extension ends|
The UK Prime Minister acknowledged the extension in a two-page letter – which he signed.
For this type of decision, the European Council (EC) comprises the leaders of the remaining 27 EU Member States. The request and the process are now so familiar that the European Council EC agreed to it by a written procedure – there was no meeting of the political leaders. There was however a meeting of the Member States' Ambassadors to the EU (known as "Permanent Representatives"). The written procedure is used under Article 7 of the Rules of Procedure of the EC. The fact that the leaders did not even meet demonstrates how routine this has now become and how an extension for the UK did not warrant leaders travelling from around the EU to Brussels for a meeting.
The speculation in some media outlets that some member states would veto the extension proved wide of the mark. Equally, the doubts cast about the legality of the unsigned letter from the UK Prime Minister request also proved unfounded. Political reality counts for a great deal in the EU regime.
This is the third extension. Others were agreed on 22 March 2019 and 11 April 2019. This one may or may not be the last.
For queries or for further information on this topic please contact Dr Vincent Power, Partner, EU, Competition & Procurement, or any other member of A&L Goodbody's Brexit team.
Date published: 29 October 2019