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Letter from Donald Tusk to the members of the EU Council (Art. 50) – 9 April 2019

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Invitation letter from President Donald Tusk to the members of the EU Council (Art. 50) ahead of their special meeting on 10 April 2019 which was called to discuss another request for an extension to the Article 50 period.

The President is suggesting a “flexible” extension for no longer than a year that, can be cancelled as soon as both sides have ratified the Withdrawal Agreement.

Invitation Letter for EU Council Meeting – 09 April 2019

Last week I received a letter from Prime Minister May requesting a further extension of the Article 50 period, until 30 June 2019. In her letter the Prime Minister states that the UK government’s policy remains to leave the EU in an orderly way, and that it is therefore now seeking a consensus across the House of Commons on the right way forward. She also adds that, if the UK were an EU member on 23 May 2019, it would be under a legal obligation to hold elections to the European Parliament.

Given the risks posed by a no-deal Brexit for people and businesses on both sides of the English Channel, I trust that we will continue to do our utmost to avoid this scenario. Therefore I propose that we consider Prime Minister May’s request for an extension at our meeting tomorrow.

However, our experience so far, as well as the deep divisions within the House of Commons, give us little reason to believe that the ratification process can be completed by the end of June. In reality, granting such an extension would increase the risk of a rolling series of short extensions and emergency summits, creating new cliff-edge dates. This, in turn, would almost certainly overshadow the business of the EU27 in the months ahead. The continued uncertainty would also be bad for our businesses and citizens. Finally, if we failed to agree on any next extension, there would be a risk of an accidental no-deal Brexit.

This is why I believe we should also discuss an alternative, longer extension. One possibility would be a flexible extension, which would last only as long as necessary and no longer than one year, as beyond that date we will need to decide unanimously on some key European projects. The flexibility would allow to terminate the extension automatically, as soon as both sides have ratified the Withdrawal Agreement. The UK would be free to leave whenever it is ready. And the EU27 would avoid repeated Brexit summits. Importantly, a long extension would provide more certainty and predictability by removing the threat of constantly shifting cliff-edge dates. Furthermore, in the event of a continued stalemate, such a longer extension would allow the UK to rethink its Brexit strategy.

Some of you have raised concerns that the UK’s continued presence as a departing EU country would pose risks for the functioning of the EU27 at a time of key decisions on its future. To address them we would need to agree on a number of conditions: no re-opening of the Withdrawal Agreement; no start of the negotiations on the future, except for the Political Declaration; the UK would have to maintain its sincere cooperation also during this crucial period, in a manner that reflects its situation as a departing member state. We should remember, however, that the United Kingdom will remain a member state with full rights and obligations. And, in any event, the UK can revoke Article 50 at any time, as stated by the European Court of Justice.

Whatever course of action is taken, it must not be influenced by negative emotions. We should treat the UK with the highest respect, as we want to remain friends and close partners, and as we will still need to agree on our future relations. Neither side should be allowed to feel humiliated at any stage in this difficult process.

As you know, with Brexit there are no easy solutions. Both aforementioned options have their advantages and disadvantages. Therefore, let us discuss them in an open, creative, and constructive way.

We will meet at 18.00 for an exchange with European Parliament President Tajani. We will then hear Prime Minister May, before meeting for dinner at 27 in order to agree a response to the United Kingdom’s request.

PM meeting with President Macron: 9 April 2019

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Having asked for an extension for the Article 50 timescale to the end of June, Theresa May has had a meeting with Emmanuel Macron in order to gain support for her request.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/pm-meeting-with-president-macron-9-april-2019

A Downing Street spokesperson said:

The Prime Minister met with President Macron in Paris this afternoon ahead of the EU Council meeting tomorrow.

Following the Prime Minister’s letter to Donald Tusk last week, the leaders discussed the UK’s request for an extension of Article 50 to June 30th, with the option to bring this forward if a deal is ratified earlier.

The Prime Minister updated President Macron on the ongoing talks with the Opposition to agree a way forward that respects the result of the 2016 referendum.

They also discussed upcoming European Parliamentary elections with the PM saying that the government was working very hard to avoid the need for the UK to take part.

The leaders also discussed the ongoing situation in Libya. The PM expressed her deep concern about the recent escalation and said it was important for the international community to work together to bring an end to the violence.

PM meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel: 9 April 2019

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Having asked for an extension for the Article 50 timescale to the end of June, Theresa May has had a meeting with Angela Merkel in order to gain support for her request.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/pm-meeting-with-chancellor-angela-merkel-9-april-2019

A Downing Street spokesperson said:

The Prime Minister met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin this afternoon for a working lunch.

Ahead of EU Council tomorrow, the leaders discussed the UK’s request for an extension of Article 50 to June 30th with the option to bring this forward if a deal is ratified earlier.

The Prime Minister outlined the steps the government is taking to bring the Brexit process to a successful conclusion, and updated Chancellor Merkel on the ongoing discussions with the Opposition.

The leaders agreed on the importance of ensuring Britain’s orderly withdrawal from the European Union.

The leaders also discussed the ongoing situations in Yemen and Libya.

European Union (Withdrawal) Act – Passed

This Bill started its passage through Parliament on 2 April 2019 and looks to remove a bargaining chip from the UK in it’s discussions with the EU to prevent No Deal. The Bill completed its passage through Parliament (House of Commons and House of Lords) on 08 April 2019.

In trying to understand the consequences of this legislation it is useful to explore a Research Briefing prepared for the House of Commons:

https://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/CBP-8541#fullreport

By the automatic operation of EU law, the UK leaves the EU on 12 April 2019 regardless of whether a deal has been ratified. The purpose of the Bill is to reduce the risk of the UK leaving the EU without a deal, or at least to delay that outcome beyond 12 April 2019 if that is what MPs want and the European Council is prepared to agree to it.

An important point here is that any extension needs to be agreed by the EU Council! They can reject a selected extension and/or propose their own date.

The day after the day on which this Bill gets Royal Assent, the Prime Minister would have to table a motion. This motion must seek Commons approval for a proposal that the UK asks the European Council for an extension to Article 50. The motion must set out the Prime Minister’s preferred extension date.

Following Royal Assent of the Bill on 08 April 2019 (when it became Law) the following Motion has been tabled for debate on 9 April 2019

The Prime Minister

That this House agrees for the purposes of section 1 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2019 to the Prime Minister seeking an extension of the period specified in Article 50(3) of the Treaty on European Union to a period ending on 30 June 2019.

As it happens the PM has already written to Donald Tusk (on 5 April 2019) requesting an extension to 30 June 2019 with an option to terminate early. Has the fast tracking of this Bill through Parliament been a complete waste of time ?

If the EU offers a different extension to the one proposed, the PM the must seek approval from the House of Commons before the revised date can be agreed with the EU.

The Act also provides a further role for the Commons in the event that the European Council does not agree to the Prime Minister’s request but proposes an alternative date. In those circumstances, the Prime Minister would have to seek further Commons approval before agreeing to that revised date and thereby giving effect to it in EU law.

The full report is available in the attached document issued by the House of Commons library

European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 5) Bill 2017-19

An Extension to the Extension (Art. 50)

Theresa May has written to Donald Tusk requesting a further extension to the Article 50 period.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/prime-ministers-letter-to-president-tusk-5-april-2019

Prime Minister’s letter to President Tusk: 5 April 2019 (pdf)

Some key points:

An extension to 30 June 2019 with an option to terminate early

and in terms of the forthcoming elections for the EU Parliament…

The Government is therefore undertaking the lawful and responsible preparations for this contingency including by making the Order that sets the date of the poll.

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