UK & EU officials prepare contingencies for possible Brexit delay

British and European officials are discussing the possibility of extending the formal exit process from the European Union amid fears a Brexit deal will not be approved by March 29, The Daily Telegraph reported, citing unidentified sources. 

The Telegraph cited three unidentified EU sources as saying British officials had been “putting out feelers” and “testing the waters” on an extension of Article 50, a part of the Lisbon Treaty which sets out the conditions for leaving the EU. 

EU Today can confirm that European Parliament officials are in the process of preparing a contingency plan to put in place should Brexit not take place as planned. "We could well be seeing European elections taking place in the UK in May,  and so we have to prepare for a new batch of Brit MEPs arriving," one senior staff member told us.

Prime Minister Theresa May has repeatedly ruled out delaying Brexit, though she has also warned lawmakers that if they reject her deal then Brexit could be derailed or that the United Kingdom could leave without a deal. 

“We are leaving the European Union on the 29th of March,” British Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said when asked about the Telegraph report. “We are not looking to extend.” 

When asked directly if he denied the report, Barclay said: “Yes, because I can be very clear that the government’s policy is to leave on March 29.” 

He added that extending the Article 50 exit process was not a unilateral decision for the United Kingdom. Extending would require the unanimous agreement of EU heads of state in the European Council. 

This, however, is not the case according to European Court of Justice (ECJ) Advocate General Campos Sanchez-Bordona who gave legal opinion stating that if a country decided to leave the EU, it should also have the power to change its mind during the two-year exit process specified in Article 50 of the EU treaty, and it should be able to do this without needing the consent of the other 27 member states.

The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, to which the UK and other EU member states are signatories, also states that a notice of intent to quit a treaty can be withdrawn by the party concerned up until the very last moment. 

EU leaders and officials have said over recent weeks that they would be open to extending the Brexit process if Britain asked – though have made clear that, so far, May has stuck to her position that she will seek no delay. 

Read also: May warns UK will be in uncharted territory if Brexit deal is rejected

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Gary Cartwright

Gary Cartwright

Gary Cartwright is publishing editor of EU Today. 

An experienced journalist and published author, he specialises in environment, energy, and defence.

He also has more than 10 years experience of working as a staff member in the EU institutions, working with political groups and MEPs in various policy areas.

Gary's latest book WANTED MAN: THE STORY OF MUKHTAR ABLYAZOV: A Manual for Criminals on How to Avoid Punishment in the EU is currently available from Amazon

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