It’s officially 1,000 days later, and with only nine days left until the UK is expected to leave the European Union, things are looking rocky. There have been rumours of long extensions, another referendum, and a third meaningful vote, but this week the UK's next steps have been put into question. Today, Theresa May has asked for a short extension.
Theresa May’s attempt to roll the dice again for a third meaningful vote this week was prevented when the speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow ruled that significant changes would need to be made to the deal before it could be welcomed back for another vote. While most thought the beleaguered British Prime Minister would ask for a delay of nine or 12 months, she's only asked for three, not giving the Pound or the UK much breathing room.
You can read the letter Theresa May has sent to Donald Tusk, here.
Reports suggest May still hopes to get her Brexit deal—which has failed twice—through parliament, and a short pause will appease Tory Brexiters while making changer to her agreement. It’s also worth noting that any delay the UK tries to implement, needs the support of the EU. European Council President Donald Tusk has said that Britain needs to be open to a longer delay, and it’s not just Tusk that has weighed in. French President Emmanuel Macron, and the EU’s Chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, have also said that any pitch for an extension will need to be accompanied with an explanation as to why. This is perhaps an unsurprising demand given the lack of progress made in the last few years and the UK government's habit for pushing back votes and causing delays. Additionally, Barnier has suggested that the price of a Brexit extension could be promises for a second referendum or general election to break the deadlock.
So what happens next? A short delay means the UK won't take part in the European Parliament elections in May. A draft EU plan suggests that if the UK doesn’t choose to be involved with the elections and can’t get a deal through the door, the UK would be pushed out from the EU in July. This kind of hard-Brexit could be a cliff edge for the UK economy, and the Pound. However, at the moment, markets seem to be relatively optimistic that the biggest Brexit risks have subsided, despite the ongoing political turmoil.
There have been reports MPs are calling for May to quit and that an emergency Brexit debate might be held. Eyes will now turn to Thursday’s EU leaders’ summit and any other emergency summits or events that might occur as the UK and EU attempt to forge a plan with only nine days until the official deadline.
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