Theresa May and EU agree flexible extension to Article 50 period until 31st October 2019

Theresa May and EU agree flexible extension to Article 50 period until 31st October 2019

Here is the text of Theresa May’s statement just delivered at the conclusion of the emergency European Council meeting:

I have just met with Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, where I agreed an extension to the Brexit process to the end of October at the latest.  I continue to believe we need to leave the EU, with a deal, as soon as possible.

And vitally, the EU have agreed that the extension can be terminated when the Withdrawal Agreement has been ratified — which was my key request of my fellow leaders.

For example, this means that, if we are able to pass a deal in the first three weeks of May, we will not have to take part in European Elections and will officially leave the EU on Saturday, 1st June.

During the course of the extension, the European Council is clear that the UK will continue to hold full membership rights, as well as its obligations. As I said in the room tonight, there is only a single tier of EU membership, with no conditionality attached beyond existing treaty obligations.

Let me conclude by saying this. I know that there is huge frustration from many people that I had to request this extension.  The UK should have left the EU by now and I sincerely regret the fact that I have not yet been able to persuade Parliament to approve a deal which would allow the UK to leave in a smooth and orderly way.

But the choices we now face are stark and the timetable is clear.

So we must now press on at pace with our efforts to reach a consensus on a deal that is in the national interest.  Tomorrow I will be making a statement to the House of Commons.  Further talks will also take place between the Government and the Opposition to seek a way forward.

I do not pretend the next few weeks will be easy or that there is a simple way to break the deadlock in Parliament. But we have a duty as politicians to find a way to fulfil the democratic decision of the Referendum, deliver Brexit and move our country forward.

Nothing is more pressing or more vital.======================

Our summary of what was agreed==========================

The key points of the agreement are as follows:

  • The flexible extension of the Article 50 period can only last until 31st October 2019, although if the Withdrawal Agreement is ratified by the UK and EU before then, Brexit day becomes the first day of the following month.
  • The extension cannot be allowed to undermine “the regular functioning of the Union and its institutions” so if the UK has not ratified the Withdrawal Agreement by 22nd May, it must hold European Parliament elections on 23rd May (and if the UK fails to live up to this obligation, Brexit occurs on 1st June 2019).
  • The Withdrawal Agreement cannot be re-opened and “any unilateral commitment, statement or other act should be compatible with the letter and the spirit of the Withdrawal Agreement and must not hamper its implementation”.
  • If the position of the UK were “to evolve”, then the European Council “is prepared to reconsider the Political Declaration on the future relationship”.
  • During the extension, the UK remains an EU Member State with full rights and obligations, and has a right to revoke its Article 50 notification at any time.
  • The principle of sincere cooperation will continue to apply to the UK and during the extension the UK will “refrain from any measure which could jeopardise the attainment of the Union’s objectives, in particular when participating in the decision-making processes of the Union”.
  • The European Council will review progress at its meeting in June 2019.