Stockholm (Ekonamik) – On Tuesday, February 26th, UK Prime Minister Theresa May proposed a schedule for potentially delaying Brexit until June, should no deal have been reached by March 12th. As it is unlikely that any breakthrough will be achieved in the next 2 weeks, we expect Brexit to be delayed. The Brexit deadline is March 29th.
According to Mrs May’s statement, there will be a “second Meaningful Vote” on March 12 on leaving the EU. If the motion is defeated, Parliament will be asked to vote on March 13 on whether it wishes to leave the EU without a deal. If this motion is also defeated, members of parliament (MPs) will be asked to vote “on whether Parliament wants to seek a short limited extension to Article 50”.
Mrs May was very clear about the duration of her proposed extension. “Let me be clear, I do not want to see Article 50 extended. Our absolute focus should be on working to get a deal and leaving on 29 March. An extension beyond the end of June would mean the UK taking part in the European Parliament elections. What kind of message would that send to the more than 17 million people who voted to leave the EU nearly three years ago now? And the House should be clear that a short extension – not beyond the end of June – would almost certainly have to be a one-off. If we had not taken part in the European Parliament elections, it would be extremely difficult to extend again, so it would create a much sharper cliff edge in a few months’ time. An extension cannot take no deal off the table. The only way to do that is to revoke Article 50, which I shall not do, or agree a deal.”
The day after May’s announcement, MPs voted on seven amendments to the Brexit Bill. Of these, two were passed, one of which (“the Spelman no-deal amendment”) aimed at blocking Brexit in the absence of an agreement with the EU. However, the amendment is only advisory and has no legislative force.
May’s announcement echoes amendments to the Brexit Bill that were rejected last month in the House of Commons. Although delaying Brexit is the only feasible alternative to a potentially disastrous no-deal Brexit, the problem is that the delay cannot really be used to make any substantial changes to the agreement. There is no interest on the part of the EU to reconsider terms which took more than 2 years to agree. At the same time, the UK government’s prevarication is partly the result of a fundamental lack of agreement on the issue in Parliament, which is unlikely to change by June.
Brexit might not happen on March 29, but seems increasingly likely to be a hard Brexit by the time it eventually comes.