The key Brexit development this month was the agreement reached on 11 April 2019 between the European Council and the UK government to extend the Article 50 period for a second time.
Extension to Article 50 period
On 2 April 2019 the Prime Minister made a statement to the House of Commons (HoC) in which she said that a second extension to the Article 50 period was needed that was as short as possible to avoid leaving the EU with no deal. On 5 April 2019, in a letter to the President of the European Council, the Prime Minister requested a second extension of the Article 50 period to 30 June 2019. The HoC gave its agreement to the extension on 9 April 2019.
The European Council and the UK government agreed a second extension to the Article 50 period on 11 April 2019. The extension will last until 31 October 2019 at the latest, but may end sooner under a variety of scenarios:
- If the UK fails to hold elections to the European Parliament on 23 to 26 May 2019 and has not ratified the withdrawal agreement by 22 May 2019, then it will end at 11.00 pm on 31 May 2019 (UK time).
- If the extension continues after 31 May 2019, but the withdrawal agreement is ratified sooner than 31 October 2019, then the UK will leave the EU at 11.00 pm (UK time) on the last day of the month in which it is ratified.
The UK will remain a member state of the EU during the period of extension, with full rights and responsibilities (including the duty of sincere co-operation) unless and until it formally leaves, with or without a withdrawal agreement.
The government subsequently made the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 (Exit Day) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2019 (SI 2019/859), which amended with immediate effect the definition of exit day in the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 to 11.00 pm on 31 October 2019.
Government talks with Labour on next steps in Brexit process
At the start of April, the Prime Minister offered to agree with the Leader of the Opposition a different approach to the future UK-EU relationship for approval by the HoC. If they cannot agree a single unified approach to the future UK-EU relationship, several options for the future relationship would be put to the HoC in a series of votes to decide which course to follow.
As MPs returned from the Easter recess on 23 April 2019, there was no sign of a breakthrough in talks between the government and Labour on a way forward. The Prime Minister told her cabinet that the talks were serious but difficult in some areas. Cabinet Office minister David Lidington said that the government wanted to get a Brexit deal approved by Parliament before the first sitting of the newly-elected European Parliament on 2 July 2019, though this was dependent on how talks with Labour progressed.
No-deal scenario planning
On 10 April 2019 the European Commission adopted a Communication Addressing the impact of a withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the Union without an agreement: the Union’s coordinated approach. The Communication is part of the Commission’s ongoing preparations for a possible no-deal Brexit scenario and provides a summary of the work carried out so far. According to the Commission, although the conclusion of a withdrawal agreement is the preferred option, the EU is prepared for a no-deal Brexit.
House of Commons indicative votes
A second stage of the indicative vote process took place on 1 April 2019, when the HoC debated and voted on options for alternative ways forward relating to the UK’s withdrawal from, and future relationship with, the EU. The votes aimed to identify a majority view. However, none of the four motions selected by the Speaker carried a majority:
- Customs union (273 for; 276 against).
- Common market 2.0 (261 for; 282 against).
- Confirmatory public vote (280 for; 292 against).
- Parliamentary supremacy (191 for; 292 against).
Private Members’ Bill on avoiding leaving the EU with no deal
The European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 5) Bill 2017-19 was introduced to the HoC on 2 April 2019. The Private Members’ Bill was introduced in response to concerns that the UK might leave the EU on 12 April 2019 with no deal. The Bill received Royal Assent to become the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2019 (2019 Act) on 8 April 2019.
Brexit statutory instruments
Brexit statutory instruments (SIs) continued to be published throughout the month. You can keep up to date with the increased volume of Brexit SIs by visiting our Brexit statutory instruments tracker.