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Explaining the Brexit flextension

Brexit: the flextension explained

11 April 2019

Following the Government’s third failed meaningful vote, the UK was granted an extension to Article 50 to allow additional time to come up with an alternative plan. This stopped a no deal Brexit in the short term: but what has it actually achieved?

Since the first extension, MPs have been busy attempting to distinguish which of the proposed Brexit outcomes were most desired; a customs union, a second referendum, no deal, and others. As many might have expected, no majority has been found - further evidence of the division of opinions on Brexit in Parliament.

Many have been shocked to see the Prime Minister making a U-turn by attempting to work with Jeremy Corbyn to find a consensus between the two leading parties. She hoped that this would then lead to the deal being passed in the House of Commons. But as many expected, this week Theresa May went back to the EU again for yet another extension.

The 27 member states of the EU Council met yesterday to discuss this request, and following a nine hour summit of intense negotiating, came to an agreement. Addressing the House of Commons on 11 April 2019, the Prime Minister confirmed that the UK has been granted an extension of the Article 50 period for an additional six months – until 31 October 2019. Though a much longer extension than initially requested by the Prime Minister, the EU also agreed that this could be flexible should an agreement be reached in the UK and should the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement be passed in the House of Commons prior to this date.

What does this mean?

Although the additional time is welcomed by the UK, the flexible nature of the extension could also lead to a number of scenarios and therefore, further uncertainty. A few potential scenarios include:

  • No Deal: The UK no longer risks crashing out of the EU with no deal tomorrow (12 April 2019). However, it is important to note that until an agreement is reached in Westminster, a no deal scenario remains likely.
  • Participation in the EU elections: the EU elections begin on 23 May 2019 so should the House of Commons not have reached agreement by then, it is likely that the UK would be obliged to participate in these elections, a scenario that the Prime Minister has openly opposed.
  • An earlier departure: if the UK reaches an agreement on the desired direction of Brexit and the Withdrawal Agreement is passed in the House of Commons prior to 31 October, the EU has stated that the UK would be able to formally exit the EU at an earlier stage.

What next?

The RIBA emphasises that until there is agreement in Westminster, a no deal scenario remains a very real possibility. We therefore encourage members to ensure they are prepared for such an outcome and to view our guidance to practices in the event of no deal.

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