June 9, 2017 by Paul Goldsmith
When Article 50 was written, is was made deliberately vague, as it was never really intended to be used. It is also heavily weighted in terms of power towards the EU and not the leaving country. Theresa May invoked it at the end of March, so in theory in a March 2019 we are out. But the most sensible thing to do right now, given no one has a proper mandate to be Prime Minister and no party has a mandate to lead the UK in Brexit talks and certainly cannot promise to deliver whatever deal is offered, is to ask for a delay.
Perhaps after another election things might be clearer. OR (unlikely), some sort of cross-party constitutional convention could be called to come up with an approach to a deal all parties are happy with, which gets voted on in Parliament. The latter is unlikely. But can we get a delay?
Article 50 says this:
“The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.”
So, we can’t ask for a pause, but what we can ask for is an extension to the two year period. This can only be granted by the European Council, which means it would need the approval of all 27 other member states. Will it happen?
Well, on the one hand, the shorter the negotiation period the less chance of Britain getting the deal it wants, so the other states might be interested in not granting that extension. Whether Brexiters like it or not, the other states do have the whip hand in this negotiation, as if there is no deal they lose one trading partner and we lose 27.
However, I wonder if this General Election result will cause us to look again at our approach to Brexit. This was an election trying to get a mandate for a definite, probably harder Brexit, leaving the Single Market and Customs Union. That mandate wasn’t granted. Have we got nearer to a second referendum? There is a case for that. Watch this particular space with interest.