EU leaders have agreed to postpone Brexit for up to three months until January 31st, 2020, with the likelihood of a pre-Christmas UK election on the cards. The remaining Member States would allow an earlier date if the UK ratifies a Withdrawal Agreement before then.
Commenting this week, President of the European Council Donald Tusk said the EU-27 ‘has agreed that it will accept the UK’s request for a Brexit flextension until January 31, 2020. The decision is expected to be formalised through a written procedure,’ the former Polish Prime Minister said.
In a letter to Tusk, UK Premier Boris Johnson said that it was an ‘unwanted prolongation’ that is damaging to British democracy and to the EU-UK relationship.
The New York-born politician said he accepted the decision, but added that he ‘would also urge Member States to make clear that a further extension after January 31 (2020) is not possible.’
The Irish government welcomed the announcement from the remaining EU-27 to delay Brexit until the New Year, with a statement underlining that ‘this averts the risk of a disruptive no-deal Brexit … the decision extends the deadline to the end of January, but allows for an earlier exit by the UK if ratification is completed quickly.’
Jeremy Corbyn has confirmed that the Labour Party is ready to back an early general election, saying his party was ready to fight the ‘most ambitious and radical campaign for real change our country has ever seen.’ The opposition leader told his Shadow Cabinet that ‘I have consistently said that we are ready for an election and our support is subject to a no-deal Brexit being off the table.
‘We have now heard from the EU that the extension of Article 50 to January 31st has been confirmed, so for the three months, our condition of taking no-deal off the table has now been met.’
The Labour campaign group, Momentum, tweeted ‘Labour are officially backing an election … this is an opportunity of a lifetime to put an end to the shambolic mess the Tories have made and return hope to millions … let’s do this.’
In an effort to secure the support from the smaller Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party for an election before Christmas, Johnson will now abandon attempts to get his Brexit bill through Parliament.
Johnson can only hold an election with the support of MPs, who have already blocked it three times.
At the time of going to press, the exact date was still unclear, with December 9th, 11th and 12th being floated.
EP approves measure to continue EU funding for UK in no-deal scenario
THE European Parliament (EP) approved a measure on October 22nd to make sure that EU funds for 2020 are fully available if the UK leaves the bloc in a no-deal Brexit scenario.
The House backed the draft recommendation, tabled by the chair of the Budgets Committee Belgian MEP Johan Van Overtveld (ECR) by 543 votes in favour, 30 against with 46 abstentions. Under the provisions, UK researchers, students and farmers would continue to get Community support next year, if the country leaves the bloc without a deal, provided London continues to pay its contributions and accepts the necessary controls and audits.
The aim is to ‘minimise any negative impact that the UK’s withdrawal may have on beneficiaries of EU funding … such as Horizon 2020 (research and innovation), Erasmus+ (studying abroad programme), agriculture and regional policies,’ EP officials outlined.
• Rose O’Donovan is the editor-in-chief of the Brussels-based publication AGRA FACTS.