Last night the UK and EU agreed to a revised set of deadlines for the UK the EU. Even with the extra time the UK has been granted, they are still mere weeks away from leaving the EU. Theresa May originally asked for this extension, in fear that the country will leave without a withdrawal deal in place.
To paint a picture of the current predicament:
- The deal Theresa May negotiated with the EU has been voted down twice in parliament.
- She is not allowed to vote on it further unless significant changes are made to it.
- She needs an extension in order to renegotiate with the EU to make those changes.
- The EU don’t want to give her an extension, because they don’t want to renegotiate.
- All 27 other members of the EU need to agree on an extension, but not all of them want to.
- Emmanuel Macron has said that parliament needs to accept the current deal as it is.
This basically leaves the United Kingdom with two choices:
- Accept the deal that has already been negotiated and leave on March 29th.
- Leave without a deal in place, (assuming no extension is granted by the EU) on March 29th.
But there’s technically a third…
- Revoke Article 50.
Revoking Article 50
On March 29th, 2017, the government triggered Article 50: the legislation that allows any European Union member to withdraw from the European Union. Doing so meant that, unless a deal has been agreed, ‘all treaties shall cease to apply to the state in question… two years after the notification’. The UK had two years to plan a withdrawal but has so far failed to agree one in parliament. This is why, on April 12th, the UK leaves regardless – it’s a legal and enforceable directive. However, the UK can revoke Article 50, signalling their legal intention not to leave the EU, effectively cancelling Brexit. The European Court of Justice concluded in December that UK could unilaterally (without approval of the EU) revoke the Article.
As everything with Brexit, it’s not that easy… Revoking Article 50 would signal our legal intention remain a member of the EU. The Brexit referendum was not legally binding, so there is nothing forcing us to leave, but for the government, this certainly looks like a ‘betrayal’ of the result of that vote. The outcome was to leave and the conservative party built their 2017 manifesto on delivering that outcome. This is an especially important promise as around two-thirds of conservative voters supported leave.
So, revoking Article 50 would provide the United Kingdom with as much breathing room as is needed, but it comes with the impression that Brexit is not being fulfilled.
What do you think? Should the government revoke article 50 and invoke it again later? Or should we leave with no deal?