Article 50

Is Boris really going to ask for a Brexit extension?

Boris Johnson will seek an extension to Article 50 if there is no Brexit deal by 19 October, documents read out in court today have revealed. This contradicts the Prime Minister’s assertion that he would rather be ‘dead in a ditch’ than delay Britain leaving to after the current deadline of 31 October. So what’s going on? The revelation comes in the government’s written case for a hearing on whether the Prime Minister will be in contempt of court if he doesn’t send the letter to the European Union asking for the extension which he is mandated to do by the Benn Act. The document says that ‘he cannot act

Emmanuel Macron could be Boris Johnson’s Brexit saviour

One thing on which Remainers and Brexiteers can agree is that Brexit delayed is Brexit denied. The government continues to proclaim that the UK will leave the EU on 31 October with or without a deal. But No. 10 is acutely sensitive to the possibility of a parliamentary manoeuvre designed to compel the executive, through legislation, to seek a further extension of Article 50 to delay Brexit yet again. But Boris Johnson should keep calm about this prospect, for an unlikely saviour – the president of France, Emmanuel Macron – could come to his rescue. Whatever Brexit extension legislation Parliament might push through, any further extension of Article 50 requires unanimous

It’s getting harder for Theresa May to pass her deal next week

After eight hours of talks between EU leaders, Theresa May has been granted an Article 50 extension. If the Prime Minister can pass her deal next week, there will be technical extension until 22 May. If the deal fails to pass, Article 50 will be extended only until 12 April so that the UK can set out its next steps – and potentially apply for a longer extension. This offer appears to give backbenchers time to try and – once again – seize control of the process if May fails to pass her deal. The Prime Minister’s problem is when it comes to meeting the first condition of the 22

Britain could be heading for a nine-month Brexit delay

Nigel Dodds of the DUP has not yet agreed a deal with Theresa May to bring his troop of ten MPs – and some of their Tory ERG Brexiter allies – into her camp for that momentous and precedent-smashing third “meaningful vote” on her Brexit deal. This means as of now the third “meaningful vote” remains the stuff of myth and legend; as I said on Saturday, it may not happen at all, or at least not before the European Union council on Thursday. A minister close to the PM tells me the cabinet expects the EU to grant the UK a Brexit delay of nine months – which would

James Forsyth

Would the EU reject an Article 50 extension request?

Any extension to the Article 50 process would have to be unanimously agreed by the EU 27. This has led to some speculation that there might be a veto. But this strikes me as highly unlikely. One of the EU’s priorities in this negotiation has been to try and avoid blame, which explains Michel Barnier’s cack handed social media diplomacy. Rejecting a UK request to extend Article 50 would turn that approach on its head. It is also worth remembering that the EU is far from perfectly prepared for a no deal exit—what to do about the Irish border being the most glaring example of this—and if the EU forced

Letters | 7 March 2019

The point of Article 50 Sir: I read Paul Collier’s article in your 23 February issue, which has just reached me in la France profonde, with interest. The principal author of Article 50 was John Kerr, aka Lord Kerr of Kinlochard. I have known John for quite a long time, and enjoyed his company: when I became chancellor in 1983 he was my principal private secretary. He explained to me some time ago, before the referendum, that the purpose of Article 50 was to make it as difficult as possible for a country to leave the European Union. A clever man, he did a good job. Nigel Lawson House of Lords, London SW1

Do these 83 MPs understand how no-deal Brexit works?

This morning a group of more than 200 MPs from several parties made waves by penning a letter to the Prime Minister, urging her to rule out Britain leaving the European Union without a deal. In the text, they argued that a ‘mechanism that would ensure a no-deal Brexit could not take place’ would have the support of parliament. That may be so, but Mr Steerpike was curious to note how few of the MPs who signed the letter seem to actually understand the Brexit process. Unfortunately for them, unless an alternative is actively proposed – such as revoking Brexit or accepting May’s deal – no deal can’t be ruled

Six reasons why revoking Article 50 would kill Brexit, not pause it

Have you noticed how many siren voices are suggesting that Britain rescinds Article 50 to buy time? The Irish Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, tells us that it is in the UK’s gift to avoid a no deal Brexit and buy “more time to decide what it wants” We have Sir John Major saying “We need to revoke Article 50 with immediate effect. The clock must be stopped. It is clear we need the most precious commodity of all: time.” Versions of this can be heard elsewhere. But it’s legal nonsense, for reasons that are not properly understood. The ECJ did not give us carte blanche to revoke the notice and then

The small print of today’s Article 50 opinion reveals yet another ECJ power grab

The European Court of Justice is back in the headlines this morning. Its Advocate General, Manuel Campos Sanchez-Bordona, has declared that the UK might be able to cancel Brexit by revoking Article 50 unilaterally. So is that it settled? Not at all: nothing, with the ECJ, is ever that simple. In fact, the whole episode is a good chance to look at the ECJ and the way it works – and then ask if this is the kind of supreme court that Britain really wants to stay under. Take what happened this morning. We learn via a three-page press release what Sanchez-Bordona thinks about Article 50. An hour after that

Can the UK cancel Brexit? We’re about to find out

While it might have garnered less attention than the political drama around the withdrawal agreement, next week’s European Court of Justice decision on whether the UK can unilaterally revoke Article 50 – that is, cancel Brexit – could have serious ramifications. A bit of background on the case: in November 2017, a group of Scottish MPs, MEPs and MSPs – working with the anti-Brexit barrister Jolyon Maugham QC – asked the Scottish Advocate General to clarify whether the UK government had the right to revoke Article 50 if it wanted to. Ignoring the objections of the government – which insisted that, since Brexit was going ahead, there was no need

Since Article 50 was triggered, a no-deal Brexit has been the default

Jeremy Hunt has told Tory rebels that”if we don’t back Theresa May we will have no Brexit”. It echoes a point Paul Mason once made – a point that you hear quite often: there’s no chance of no deal on Brexit, because there is no parliamentary majority for no deal. It’s understandable, given recently chaos, to imagine that if things are falling apart then Brexit might be one of them. Lord Kerr, who helped draft the Article 50 withdrawal clause, said last week that “the Brexiters create the impression that… having sent in a letter on 29 March 2017 we must leave automatically on 29 March 2019 at the latest. That is

This is what Theresa May should say in her Florence speech

Tomorrow in Florence, Theresa May needs to make the speech of her life. Britain has a strong hand to play in these EU talks and it’s time the Prime Minister showed it. May must assert once again that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’, shoring up the UK’s bargaining position. She should also insist Britain won’t confirm any ‘divorce bill’ until these Article 50 talks end in March 2019, with the final amount dependent on the goodwill the EU has shown. Above all, taking her cue from Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister needs to present an inspiring vision of the UK outside the EU. The heyday

Magical thinking isn’t a political position

I’m due to debate the philosopher A.C. Grayling on Saturday about whether there should be a second EU referendum on the terms of the Brexit deal. It is part of a two-day event being held at Central Hall, Westminster, on ‘Brexit and the political crash’. It is billed as a ‘convention’, an opportunity for all sides in this debate to discuss Britain’s future, but the reference to the ‘political crash’ is a giveaway. Brexit isn’t a revolt against out-of-touch elites or even a new departure that may or may not be good for the country. No, it is a ‘crash’, as in ‘car crash’ or ‘economic crash’. In reality, the

Brexit is exposing the cowardice of conservatism

The decision by Conservative MPs to walk away from the Commons Committee on Exiting the EU is one of the most unintentionally revealing abdications of duty I have seen. The report they refused to endorse was polite to the point of blandness. The necessity of securing cross-party approval meant that its restrained language bore little relation to the chaos in Whitehall the committee’s hearings had uncovered. In March, the committee’s chair, Hilary Benn, showed its extent when he submitted David Davis to a tough cross-examination which the Brexit Secretary was lamentably unable to withstand. Although ministers were parroting the line that ‘no deal was better than a bad deal’, Benn

Can Anglo-Spanish relations survive Brexit?

As the events of the last few days show, the increasingly toxic issue of Gibraltar means the UK’s Article 50 talks with Spain might become more fraught than either party would like. It’s not just that Spain wants to share sovereignty of the Rock with Britain; more dangerous is the fact that Brussels can exploit this dispute to punish the UK for Brexit. In fact, this weekend’s fracas over Gibraltar’s post-Brexit status shouldn’t have caused the uproar it did. True, the document distributed to EU member governments on Friday by Donald Tusk highlighted Spain’s ability to veto Gibraltar’s inclusion in any EU-UK deal; but as part of the soon-to-be 27 member bloc, Spain already possessed that ability. After all, every other member state would have a veto too.

The EU’s Gibraltar mistake

It was quite right for Theresa May to not mention Gibraltar in her Article 50 letter – why should the future of its people be in question in our negotiations? To do so would be to introduce a dangerous notion: that Gibraltar and its people were somehow a bargaining chip. Of course, the press will have fun with the idea that the Prime Minister forgot Gibraltar but far more plausible is Tim Shipman’s story in the Sunday Times today that the idea of mentioning it in the Brexit letter was raised several times – and rejected. That the EU has brought Gibraltar up as part of the Brexit deals right now is strange and shows a worrying

Rod Liddle

The joys of Brexit

The thing that got me about the photo-graph which prompted the Daily Mail’s harmless but now infamous headline ‘Never mind Brexit — who won Legs-it!’ was what I shall call the Sturgeon Lower Limb Mystery. In the photograph, the SNP leader seemed to be possessed of two slender and very long legs indeed. Whereas we know from television news footage that her legs are only seven inches long from her toes to that bit where they join the rest of her body. Walking to Downing Street for meetings, or being interviewed on the hoof by camera crews, Nicola Sturgeon usually resembles a slightly deranged Oompa–Loompa, or, as many have commented

Britain and the EU probably will reach a trade deal. Here’s why

Most diplomats in Brussels will tell you that Theresa May has just embarked upon a fool’s errand, that Britain might wish for a free-trade deal with the European Union but will have to learn that it can’t cherry-pick. Anyway, they say, nothing of any value can be agreed in two years. This received wisdom can be heard, under various iterations, in most capitals in Europe — and it’s natural that the EU will be sore, perhaps a little defensive. But there is a free-trade deal to be struck. First, a declaration: I didn’t want Britain to leave the EU. I’m a Swede running a free-trade thinktank in Brussels and can tell

An independent Britain’s top priority: staying friends with the EU

On 29 March 2019 the Queen should have a state dinner and invite the European Union’s 27 heads of state and its five presidents. The evening’s purpose would be to toast the new alliance between the United Kingdom and the EU: one based on free trade, security cooperation and shared democratic values. This celebration of the new alliance will be especially welcome after two years of negotiations which are bound to be fraught and, at times, ugly. The complexity and the sums of money involved pretty much guarantee this. There is, though, a particular onus on Britain to keep things civil. We have chosen to end this failed relationship, so

The European Council pulls its punches in its draft Brexit plan

So we have the first sight of the European Council’s draft negotiating guidelines. They’re much more constructive that we would have been lead to believe. And there are no big surprises. The first headline point is that there is no mention of the €60 billion figure which Jean-Claude Juncker and the European Commission have loved to go on about. In fact no figure is mentioned at all. The section on money is restricted to saying that debts will need to be settled – something Theresa May has already acknowledged. It does not say when the cheque needs to be signed: A single financial settlement should ensure that the Union and the