EU offers short Article 50 extension

European Union leaders have agreed a short extension to Article 50, but all options are on the table still, though now an end date is known, unless Parliament asks for a further extension. Credit: DNetromphotos

Ministers at the European Council have agreed to an extension to Article 50 up to 22 May if Parliament finally passes the Government’s Withdrawal Agreement.

However, if that deal falls for a third time then there is a delay until 12 April when the United Kingdom (UK) must decide to leave the European Union (EU) on that date or ask for a substantially longer extension to Article 50 and to enter candidates for the European Parliament elections.

The third vote on Prime Minister Theresa May’s withdrawal deal is expected on March 26 or March 27. It is not certain that the Speaker of the House, John Bercow, will allow a third vote on the deal, given that there will be no substantive changes to the deal from the last vote on 12 March.

Many observers also consider it unlikely that May’s deal will be approved, as exasperated Members of Parliament (MPs) are expected to turn on the Prime Minister and hand her a heavier defeat than the 149-vote margin earlier this month.

In part there has been a backlash from her own party’s MPs following the delay to Brexit but May has also angered other MPs following her speech outside of 10 Downing Street on the evening of 20 March. On that evening she spoke directly to the public and laid the blame for the delay squarely on Parliament.

She said, “Of this I am absolutely sure – you the public have had enough. You’re tired of the infighting. You’re tired of the political games and the arcane procedural rows.

“[You are] tired of MPs talking about nothing else but Brexit, when you have real concerns about your children’s schools, our national health service, knife crime. You want this stage of the Brexit process to be over and done with. I agree. I am on your side. It is now time for MPs to decide,” she said.

May’s speech stoked anger and resentment from MPs across the House of Commons; some of whom have decided to switch their vote away from backing May’s deal next week. Others have called for her to go.

One former minister reportedly said, “It might be true, but you don’t bloody say it,” while another MP accused May of “acting like President Trump.”

Meanwhile, Labour MP Lisa Nandy said that she would no longer back May in next week’s vote. Nandy is MP for the leave constituency of Wigan in the UK’s northwest; she said May’s language was “reckless and dangerous.”

Another Labour MP, Wes Streeting, tweeted, “There is only one question that EU27 leaders should ask @theresa_may at the EU summit: Who do you speak for? It’s not Parliament. It’s not the country. She has not one shred of credibility left.”

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Nick Savvides, Staff Writer

Nick came to FreightWaves in December 2018 from Fairplay, a shipping market publication. He covers the shipping, freight and logistics industry in Europe. Since starting his career as a journalist in 1990, Nick has worked for a number of significant freight publications abroad, including International Freighting Weekly, the online news service for Containerisation International, ICIS, the chemical industry reporting service, as well as Seatrade in Greece. Nick also worked as a freelance journalist writing for Lloyd’s List, The Observer, The Express and The European newspapers among others before joining Seatrade Newsweek in Athens.

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