With just 9 days left until the UK’s April 12th scheduled departure from the European Union, Prime Minister Theresa May announced Tuesday that she would seek another extension to avert a no-deal Brexit. She also said she would meet with Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn to pursue a Brexit plan they could both agree on.
“Today, I am taking action to break the logjam,” May said. “I am offering to sit down with the leader of the opposition and to try to agree to a plan — that we would both stick to — to ensure that we leave the European Union and that we do so with a deal.” May said any compromise must include the current withdrawal agreement, which the EU has said cannot be swiftly renegotiated.
“If Britain ever wants an orderly exit from the European Union, it must pass the withdrawal agreement painfully negotiated with the bloc,” said Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator.
“This is a difficult time for everyone,” May said. “Passions are running high on all sides of the argument. But we can and must find the compromises to deliver what the British people voted for.”
If an agreement can’t be reached with Corbyn, May said the next step would be a Parliamentary vote on a number of Brexit options and would require another extension of Article 50, which mandates the UK’s exit from the EU. The Prime Minister added that she would ask the EU to extend the Brexit deadline until May 22.
What are the Options?
- Common Market 2.0: A soft Brexit option in which the UK formally leaves the EU but remains very closely aligned with it through membership in the single market via the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and the European Economic Area (EEA). This Norway-style deal would allow the UK to negotiate a customs arrangement with the EU that would avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
- A Customs Union: As part of the customs union, the UK would be able to trade freely with the EU member states but would have to charge the same tariffs on imports from countries outside the bloc. The downside? A customs union deal would limit the ability of the UK to negotiate trade deals independently from the EU.
- No Deal: Calls for the UK to leave the EU on April 12 without a deal, otherwise known as a hard Brexit. This would end the free movement of goods and people between the UK and the EU. Customs checks would be immediately needed between the countries and tariffs would be applied to some products.
- EFTA and EEA: This option calls for the UK to accede to the terms of EEA and ETFA but not remain in the customs union.
- Labour’s alternative plan: This option lays out the Labour Party’s plan for a comprehensive customs union with the EU while remaining in a close alignment with the single market. Key to this option is the focus on worker’s rights and environmental and security protections
- Revocation to avoid no deal: If a deal is not reached with the EU the day before the scheduled divorce date, Parliament will again vote on a no deal. If Parliament approves a no deal vote, the UK will leave the EU without a deal and if it does not, the UK will give notice to revoke Article 50.
- Confirmatory public vote: MPs would vote to confirm Theresa May’s deal but only on the provision that is it then subject to a public vote to confirm it.
- Contingent preferential arrangements: States that if Parliament doesn’t pass the withdrawal agreement, that the UK government must immediately seek arrangements with the EU to manage the immediate post-Brexit environment (instead of extending or revoking Article 50) and unilaterally guarantee the rights of EU citizens in the UK.
Barnier has said that a no-deal Brexit is now the more likely scenario, but it can still be avoided. He also warned that a long extension to the April 12 exit date would pose “significant risks for the EU” and that “a strong justification would be needed”. “If we are to avoid a no-deal Brexit, there is only one way forward – they have got to vote on a deal,” he said.
May’s Brexit withdrawal plan has been rejected three times by the Commons and two attempts by British Members of Parliament (MPs) to find a different preferred option have both ended in deadlock.
European Union leaders will meet at an emergency summit on April 10 to discuss Britain’s departure from the bloc.
- The Guardian
- The New York Times
- The Telegraph