The 29th of March was the widely expected date on which Britain would leave the European Union – with or without a deal.
However, due to pressure and warnings over its potential negative impact on Britain from UK businesses and politicians, Parliament and the UK government have become increasingly steadfast in opposition to the possibility of a so-called no-deal Brexit.
Aversion to a no-deal, and a lack of agreement in Parliament over what kind of Brexit deal should go ahead, have caused the UK and EU to agree to delay the departure date until the end of October.
First, the formal Brexit date was moved back to the 12th of April – but as that date approached with Parliament still unable to agree to a solution to the process, the UK and EU have now agreed to a flexible 6-month delay to Brexit.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s request to delay Brexit until the end of June was denied, as EU leaders didn’t want a rolling series of delays – especially with EU elections taking place in May.
As a result, most EU leaders pushed for a longer delay that would allow the UK to leave the EU earlier than the extended date in the scenario where Britain is able to agree to a deal before time runs out.
Most EU leaders had hoped for a delay until around the end of 2019. However, due to strong opposition from French President Emmanuel Macron, the extension date could only be pushed as far as 31st of October.
Essentially, under this new agreement, Britain will remain in the EU until the 31st of October at the latest.
In this time it has to reach a solution over how it wants Brexit to unfold, and if it comes to a solution earlier than October it has the opportunity to leave the EU ahead of time.
European Council President Donald Tusk urged Britain to ‘not waste this’ extra six months. Leaders, especially France’s Macron, have indicated they are unlikely to support a further extension past October.
A no-deal Brexit has been avoided – for now – but the UK government is still no closer to getting Parliament to rally around a single solution for the outcome.
For the time being, Theresa May is holding talks with opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn, but officials from both parties have expressed doubt that these talks will actually lead to a Brexit compromise.
This means that Parliament will need to continue hashing out a potential solution in various debates and votes over the coming months.
That’s far from being the only issue on the horizon that UK politicians will need to face, however.
Delaying Brexit past May means the UK will have to take part in 2019’s EU Parliamentary elections.
On top of this, Prime Minister Theresa May has previously indicated she would not remain as Prime Minister if Brexit was delayed past June.
This means that, even with the Brexit debate bubbling away for an additional six months, Britain will now take part in EU elections and could potentially see a change in Prime Minister.
It is currently unclear how or even if Theresa May still plans to step down. Possibilities include a Conservative Party leadership contest or a General Election.
As Britain’s already tenuous relationship with the EU appears to worsen, Parliament continues to struggle to find a solution to Brexit, and with uncertainties about the future of Britain’s parties and leadership continuing, there are still many questions remaining before the Brexit process comes to an end.
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