On 26 February 2019, Prime Minister Theresa May issued a statement to the House of Commons regarding the progress of ongoing Brexit negotiations with the EU, and steps forward. The statement includes key upcoming dates prior to the 29 March which will determine the course of Brexit. The statement was made ahead of the Government tabling an amendable motion which will be debated in Parliament on 27 February 2019. The text of the amendable motion has not yet been seen.
In appreciation of Brexit day creeping ever nearer, the statement was framed by three commitments to the House of Commons:
- a second ‘meaningful vote’ on a draft Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration on the future EU / UK relationship will be held by 12 March 2019 at the latest;
- if the Government has not won a Meaningful Vote by Tuesday 12 March then it will – in addition to its obligations to table a neutral, amendable motion under section 13 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 – table a motion to be voted on by Wednesday 13 March at the latest, asking if the House of Commons supports leaving the EU without a Withdrawal Agreement and a Political Declaration on the future EU/UK relationship 29 March; and
- if the House of Commons, having rejected leaving with the negotiated Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration, then rejects leaving on 29 March 2019 without a Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration (a no deal scenario), the Government will, on 14 March, bring forward a motion on whether Parliament wants to seek a short limited extension to Article 50. If the House of Commons votes for an extension, the Government will seek to agree that extension with the EU, and bring forward the necessary legislation to change the exit date commensurate with that extension.
The Prime Minister emphasises that she does not wish to see Article 50 extended and work will thus be focused on leaving the EU on 29 March 2019. Given that the end of June sees the European Parliament elections, it is indicated that any extension to Article 50 should end before this point. It is further noted that an extension cannot take no deal off the table – the only way to do this would be to revoke Article 50 with which the Prime Minister maintains her refusal.