The European Council has adopted a decision to extend the period under Article 50.3 (of the Treaty on the European Union), in the context of the UK’s intention to withdraw from the EU.
The extension will last until 31 January 2020 to allow more time for the ratification of the withdrawal agreement. The withdrawal can take place earlier on 1 December 2019 or 1 January 2020, if the withdrawal agreement is ratified by both parties.
For the duration of the extension the United Kingdom remains a member state with all the rights and obligations set out in the treaties and under EU law.
The decision was taken unanimously by the European Council by written procedure, with the agreement of the UK. This agreement was set out in a letter from UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to President of the European Council Donald Tusk. The European Council also agreed a declaration accompanying the decision.
Ali Bigdeli, a university professor and European affairs expert, spoke to the website of the Strategic Council on Foreign Relations on the issue and its implications.
Q: The European Union has for the third time agreed to a UK request to a Brexit extension by the end of January. Do you think this deadline can untie the blind knot of Brexit?
This deadline does not seem to loosen the Brexit knot. Of course, in a recent speech French President Emmanuel Macron said in the European Union, that he did not think it would be necessary to give Britain another chance, but apparently they have changed their minds, probably because the European Union is not very interested in Britain leave the EU and stand by the US. Although the European Union is not satisfied with Britain’s performance over the past few years, it does not want London to get closer to Washington.
The opportunity has also been given to the UK on grounds that things may change and London would remain in the Union or maintain a least presence.
But whether or not this will be done by the end of January, the UK has only two options. That is, even if early elections are held in UK and each of the two major parties wins, still there be two ways ahead of the British parties;
First, they hold another referendum and decide on the basis of that vote again. And the second way is that the EU and the UK still maintain some of their commitments, especially the customs issues that are very important to Britain.
It should be noted that the majority of the people of Northern Ireland and Scotland oppose leaving the EU and this has become a problem for the UK. In this regard, the Scottish mainstream party has stated that they are not ready to leave the EU and that the boundaries between Northern and Southern Ireland, given that Southern Ireland is interested in remaining in the Union, are other obstacles facing Britain in pulling out of the EU.
That is why it is said that either they should hold another referendum or if they leave the union they should not break all ties and commitments and customs obligations must remain in place.
Q: Given Boris Johnson’s record, he is a staunch supporter of Brexit; what will happen if early elections are held?
Johnson’s victory is currently in a state of uncertainty, as the demands of the Britons and even the conservative supporters from the new prime minister will not be limited to staying or not staying in EU. There are other issues for the election, such as economic problems, unemployment and social security that people want to be solved.
Johnson had previously said that he would not ask the EU for another Brexit extension and would withdraw from the Union by October 31 “no ifs no buts” do or die. But we saw that during his term there were demands to the EU to extend the deadline and the EU accepted. Although Johnson did not sign the letter (a three-month deadline to England) and the letter went straight from parliament to the EU, but this occurred at the time of Johnson’s office. Although he did not agree, he did not object either because he had no choice but to do so. So politicians would not stick to their words in decision-making process.
Q: With this situation, could Johnson become the third Prime Minister victim of Brexit?
Johnson is very likely to fail in his attempt. But it should be noted that even if the Labor Party wins this election, its success will not be certain. Because there are also expectations from the Labor Party that it should be able to respond to other voters’ demands.
Q: How do you assess the future of Brexit given the role played by parties in the UK and differing views on the UK’s exit from the EU?
Now the British parties are gradually realizing that continuation of this situation will tarnish their country’s prestige, so they may have to resort to the same solutions cited before, namely holding another referendum or leaving the union on conditions that some UK commitments will remain.