The UK’s Article 50 period has been legally extended by the EU until 31 January 2020.
It can leave earlier (on the first day of the month following deal ratification) pending the deal passing in Parliament. The EU “firmly” excluded any reopening of the withdrawal agreement and has ruled out discussions of the future EU-UK relationship (the Political Declaration) until the deal is ratified. The Government’s No Deal contingency plans, Operation Yellowhammer, have been stood down and its ‘Get Ready for Brexit’ campaign paused.
Confirmation that No Deal cannot happen for three months helped MPs to vote, by a majority of 438 to 20 votes, for an early general election on Thursday 12 December. As pledged by the Government, there will be no further House of Commons debate on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) until after the election.
The Government hopes the election will “refresh” Parliament, by unlocking the deadlock and it is likely to make the election a vote on the parties’ respective positions on Brexit. Predicting the implications of the election for Brexit outcomes is difficult, especially if it results in a hung Parliament. On the parties:
- Campaigning to deliver the Prime Minister’s deal, a Conservative majority would make ratification of the WAB in late December/January more likely.
- A Labour Government would look to implement its policy to renegotiate the deal to make it more closely aligned to the single market and customs union, and then put a revised deal to a confirmatory referendum.
In a hung parliament, how a minority Tory or Labour Government would reconcile their policies with the need for support from the Liberal Democrats, SNP or Brexit Party is unclear. The Liberal Democrats would revoke Article 50 (were they to win a majority), and both the Lib Dems and SNP would push for a second referendum in return for any support in Government. The Brexit Party would like a “clean break Brexit” with the UK leaving with No Deal rather than the current deal.