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10 May 2019
Thursday 31 October 2019 is the new Brexit deadline, the UK will take part in the EU elections and cross-party discussions on a way forward continue. This blog explains the latest Brexit developments and what they mean for Wales. For background, see our latest Brexit Monitoring Report, published on 12 April 2019.
Before the Easter break, the UK Government’s proposed Withdrawal Agreement had been rejected three times and a series of indicative votes to decide a way forward had failed to find a majority in Parliament. Meanwhile, the EU27 reiterated that reopening the Withdrawal Agreement is not an option. The Prime Minister obtained another extension to Article 50 from the EU and reached out to Opposition Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, for cross-party talks to try breaking the deadlock and find a compromise. The Prime Minister has said that if they fail to reach an agreement, a third round of indicative votes will take place in Parliament.
Dates and deadlines – the new 2019 timeline
All of this means that there are new significant dates and potential deadlines in the 2019 Brexit timeline:
23 May and EU Elections
On 23 May, the UK will hold elections to the European Parliament (EP) in which Wales has four seats. This week the UK Government confirmed that the elections would definitely go ahead in the UK, as there was no longer enough time to ratify the Withdrawal Agreement before election day. Because the UK was expected to have left the EU before the elections, the EU had made plans to reallocate the UK’s 73 seats to other Member States. These plans have now been put on hold until the UK leaves the EU.
2 July (potential) deadline
The newly-elected European Parliament will hold its first session on 2 July.
The UK Government has confirmed that it would like to agree a deal before
then so that the UK MEPs never have to take their seats. David Lidington, the UK Minister for the Cabinet Office, confirmed that the UK Government will look to 2 July as the new deadline to pass the Withdrawal Agreement. He also said it will redouble its efforts in talks with MPs of all parties to ensure that the delay after the elections is as short as possible.
31 October deadline
Following the Prime Minister’s request, the EU27 and UK agreed a flexible extension to Article 50 until 31 October 2019 at an emergency summit on 10 April. If the UK and EU are able to ratify the Withdrawal Agreement before this date, the UK will leave on the first day of the month following completion of the ratification procedures.
The Prime Minister has since emphasized that she hopes the UK will leave the EU ‘well before’ the new 31 October deadline. In order to do so, the UK Government will seek Parliament’s approval of the Withdrawal Agreement, or else leave the EU without a deal. The UK Government has confirmed that ‘no deal’ preparations will continue despite reports to the contrary. In Wales, the First Minister recently warned that the extension ‘is potentially the worst of both worlds’ in that it has removed a sense of urgency without providing sufficient time to achieve a deal ‘that would command a majority in the House of Commons.’
Withdrawal Agreement Implementation Bill (WAIB)
The UK Government will need legislation to implement any agreement. This is referred to as the Withdrawal Agreement Implementation Bill (WAIB). It is not known when the UK Government will introduce the Bill. Robin Walker MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Exiting the European Union, confirmed that the UK Government will seek the consent of the devolved legislatures for the legislation when he attended the Assembly’s External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee on 11 October 2018:
We also recognise that there are areas of the withdrawal agreement Bill, particularly within the citizens’ rights arrangement and the functioning of the implementation period, where it will intersect with devolved competence. And, therefore, in those areas, we recognise our responsibilities under the Sewel convention…and we will, therefore, want to work very closely with the devolved administrations and, indeed, legislatures, to reflect that.
When asked whether the UK Government would be in a position to share draft clauses with the devolved institutions to ensure that there’s sufficient time to scrutinise the legislation, he confirmed that this would be challenging. First Minister, Mark Drakeford, recently advised that it has provided draft amendments to the UK Government for consideration.
Despite the delay to 31 October, the UK’s transition phase (the time between reaching an agreement and the arrangements for the future relationship between the UK and EU coming into force) will still come to an end in December 2020. This means that there will be less time for the UK and EU to discuss and agree the new UK-EU relationship, including trade.
During the transition period, Wales will continue to be subject to EU laws However, the Withdrawal Agreement provides that during the transition period the UK will no longer be part of EU decision making. This means that the UK will not be represented in EU institutions, agencies and bodies after exit day. Work will continue on UK-wide Common Frameworks that will replace current EU arrangements. You can read our previous blogs on what the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration mean for Wales.
Our next Brexit blog will be on the EU elections and will be available on 15 May.
Article by Sara Moran, Senedd Research, National Assembly for Wales