The former president of the European Council has told the BBC this morning that while the EU might grant an extension to Article 50, the maximum extension would be 1 July:
MEPs elected in May’s European Parliament elections will take their seats 2 July, meaning that the UK will no longer be represented.
As the SKWAWKBOX published just before Christmas, this timescale rules out a new referendum before the UK exits the EU. Even if Theresa May were to call for a so-called “people’s vote” immediately and succeeded in getting the necessary Act of Parliament through the Commons, the required parliamentary debating time and 147 days’ notice would mean a referendum earliest mid-June, with the European Parliament elections taking place 23 May.
In reality, any referendum would take place later still, as the Electoral Commission would need time to review the wording of any proposed referendum questions before a referendum bill could be put to Parliament – and if MPs then demanded a change to the question the process would start again and May might well pull the bill rather than put a question to the people that she found unpalatable.
The option of calling elections for UK MEPs to sit in the short term as a means of delaying the default Brexit is not available either, as EU rules would not permit it, the UK’s seats are already reallocated to other countries who will elect their additional representatives in May and there is not enough time for the UK Parliament to pass the necessary legislation.
The UK’s only chance of avoiding a damaging, long-term hard Brexit or the even worse situation represented by May’s deal is a general election and a change of government, which the EU has said would be a sufficiently large political change in the UK for it to take the Withdrawal Agreement back to square one.
Labour’s deal – with its aims already made clear by the party but ignored by the media – would put the UK on a firm economic and social footing. Labour cannot – and for the sake of the country should not try to – prevent Brexit, but it can rescue the UK from the consequences of Tory incompetence and chaos.
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