What Happens If Article 50 Is Extended Beyond March 29th?

18 March 2019, 17:13

MPs voted to extend Article 50 beyond March 29th but did not enforce a Brexit delay, so what happens next?

A government motion that supports a delay to leaving the European Union was passed by 412 votes to 202 in Parliament last week.

But the vote did not actually put a delay into action, but instead only gave permission for Theresa May to request an extension to Article 50 from the remaining EU countries.

In response to the vote, Theresa May warned MPs that failing to get behind her exit deal could result in a longer extension to Article 50 as supporting the Withdrawal Agreement would mean the necessary legislation could be passed quicker.

Theresa May's Statement Warning MPs To Back Her Deal Or Face Long Brexit Delay:

Speaking in the House of Commons after the motion passed, Prime Minister Theresa May said: "If the House finds a way in the coming days to support a deal, it would allow the Government to seek a short limited technical extension to Article 50 to provide time to pass the necessary legislation and ratify the agreement we have reached with the EU.

"But let me be clear, such a short technical extension is only likely to be on offer if we have a deal in place.

"Therefore, the House has to understand and accept that, if it is not willing to support a deal in the coming days, and as it is not willing to support leaving without a deal on 29 March, then it is suggesting that there will need to be a much longer extension to Article 50.

"Such an extension would undoubtedly require the United Kingdom to hold European Parliament elections in May 2019."

How Does The UK Get Article 50 Delayed?

In order for Article 50 to be extended, Theresa May would have to make a formal request to the European Council, and requires the unanimous agreement of all other heads of state.

Lord Kerr, who authored Article 50, has previously told LBC that there is nothing in the treaty which dictates how long an extension could last - this would have to be negotiated between the UK and EU.

He also suggested that the EU would be willing to grant an extension to Article 50 for either a general election or second referendum, but not if it was to allow more time for MPs to debate.

"There's nothing in the treaty that says how long you can have an extension, but there is the problem of the European Parliament elections which is due at the end of May.

"If it was clear why we were requiring the extension, if it was just to go on with the same four red lines and the same insistence about the Prime Minister not changing her view, then I'm not sure we would get it," he said.

- Man Who Wrote Article 50 Explains Why Extension Is "Necessary"

What Would A Short Brexit Delay Achieve?

A short extension to Article 50 would give enough time for legislation that supports the Withdrawal Agreement to be passed, and the final preparations to be made.

But a short extension would mean that the UK would not need to partake in the upcoming European Parliament elections.

What Would Happen In A Longer Article 50 Extension?

A long extension to Article 50 would likely take the UK's exit date from the European Union beyond the end of May when the European Parliament elections take place.

The election is due to take place between May 23rd and May 26th, meaning the UK would have to take part and elect new MEPs to the forthcoming session.

What Dates Could Article 50 Be Extended To?

According to the Institute for Government, there are four possible dates to extend Article 50 to given the European Parliament elections.

They are: 18th April, 23rd May, 1st July, or beyond.

18th April

Extending Article 50 to the 18th April would coincide with the last voting session of the current European Parliament before the election.

23rd May

The President of the European Commission, Jean Claude Juncker, has said that the UK can not expect Article 50 to be delayed beyond May without taking part in the elections.

But while the European Parliament would not be in session after April, MEPs could still be recalled to ratify a withdrawal agreement between the UK and EU up until newly elected MEPs take their seats in July.

1st July

If a deal is likely to be ratified, but a little extra time beyond the election is needed, then Article 50 could be extended up to the day before newly elected MEPs take up their seats in the European Parliament.

The Institute for Government say that the UK would not take part in the elections if this date was taken.


Article 50 could be extended beyond July and into the next session of the European Parliament, but it would mean the UK electing MEPs.

Can Article 50 Be Extended More Than Once?

The Lisbon Treaty does not state whether a country leaving the European Union could request a second extension to Article 50, however it is believed that it would require the consent of all member states in the same manner as the first extension.