European Union External Action

What is happening with Brexit?

26/03/2019 - 05:55
News stories

The EU and UK have agreed to an extension on Brexit. What does this mean and what happens next?

Brexit was scheduled for 29 March 2019, but the UK Parliament has twice voted against the deal that Prime Minister Theresa May put forward. The MPs will be given one more chance to approve the deal in the Withdrawal Agreement.

Following a request by Prime Minister Theresa May, the European Council (Article 50) agreed on Thursday 21 March to extend the UK's departure date to 22 May 2019, provided the UK MPs approve the deal by 29 March  at the latest

If they do not approve the deal, the European Council has agreed to an extension until 12 April 2019. In this scenario, the UK is expected to indicate a way forward before 12 April. If the UK wants a longer delay, it will need to take part in the European elections in May.

As the original date of Brexit - 29 March - is set in UK law in the Withdrwal Act, the MPs are expected to vote on a statutory instrument to change this date. This could happen either before or after the MPs vote on the deal.


What is the deal?

The is to ensure a smooth exit and transition period for both EU and UK businesses and individuals and to allow both sides to come up with a permanent trading relationship. It also set out parametres for the future relationship of the EU and UK. 

The transition period is the period of time between 29 March 2019 and 31 December 2020 (possibly later) when the EU and UK will work out details of their new relationship. Free movement will continue and the UK will be able to strike its own trade deals, though they won't come into force until 1 January 2021. However, this transition period will only take place if the UK and EU agree on a Brexit deal.


Source: BBC

A 'no-deal' scenario

As it now seems increasingly likey that the UK will leave the EU without a deal on 12 April, the European Commission has completed its no-deal preparations. While a “no-deal” scenario is not desirable, the EU is prepared for it.

In a “no-deal” scenario, the UK will become a third country without any transitionary arrangements. All EU primary and secondary law will cease to apply to the UK from that moment onwards. There will be no transition period, as provided for in the Withdrawal Agreement. This will obviously cause significant disruption for citizens and businesses. 

In such a scenario, the UK's relations with the EU would be governed by general international public law, including rules of the World Trade Organisation. The EU will be required to immediately apply its rules and tariffs at its borders with the UK. This includes checks and controls for customs, sanitary and phytosanitary standards and verification of compliance with EU norms. Despite the considerable preparations of the Member States' customs authorities, these controls could cause significant delays at the border. UK entities would also cease to be eligible to receive EU grants and to participate in EU procurement procedures under current terms. 

Similarly, UK citizens will no longer be citizens of the European Union. They will be subject to additional checks when crossing borders into the European Union. Again, Member States have made considerable preparations at ports and airports to ensure that these checks are done as efficiently as possible, but they may nevertheless cause delays. 


The EU's 'no-deal' preparedness and contingency work

Since December 2017, the European Commission has been preparing for a “no-deal” scenario. The Commission has held extensive technical discussions with the EU27 Member States both on general issues of preparedness and contingency work and on specific sectorial, legal and administrative preparedness issues.

Member States have also been engaged in intensive national preparations. An overview of residency rights in the EU27 Member States is available here, as well as direct links to national preparedness websites.

The EU has maintained - and will continue to maintain - a fully united position throughout its preparations, and during any possible “no-deal” period. 

More details on the "no-deal" contingency measures are available here.

The European Commission has also published a series of reader-friendly factsheets in all EU languages. 

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