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A bit of a breather: Brexit has been delayed for up to 6 months, so what's next?

No-deal planning has stopped, European election planning has started, and the May-Corbyn talks go on.

Brexit artwork Curator Dino Notaro holds 'Brexhausted' by artist Frank O'Dea at the In-spire Galerie in Dublin. Niall Carson Niall Carson

THIS WEEK, THE UK secured a Brexit extension until the 31 October, giving everyone caught up in the Brexit storm a much needed breather.

British Prime Minister Theresa May now has six months to get her Brexit deal passed, with a ‘check-in’ on the process on 30 June.

This ‘flextension’ means the leaders of the EU’s 27 member states avoid meeting every time the House of Commons rejects the Withdrawal Agreement, or rejects all other options.

So far, the House of Commons has rejected Theresa May’s deal three times in three months, and has also rejected 12 alternative arrangements in two sets of indicative votes.

The UK parliament is on an Easter break now until 23 April; this gives MPs a chance to rest and reset before trying to solve the impasse in the House of Commons, and May time to try to find some compromise with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

The British PM has been engaged in talks with Corbyn to try to secure his party’s support for her thrice-defeated Brexit deal. If she can strike a deal with Labour in the next few weeks – a customs union is the most common suggestion, not to be confused with the Customs Union – then she could get her deal passed quickly and possibly avoid the European elections.

Brexit PA Wire / PA Images PA Wire / PA Images / PA Images

The longer extension also means the EU can focus on issues other than Brexit, like the ongoing migration crisis, the rise of far-right parties across Europe as a new European Parliament is elected, and the rollout and ownership of the 5G network. 

What’s up next - local elections

The UK’s local elections are due to be held on 2 May, with the Tories predicted to suffer a blow from both Brexiteers, who are unhappy that the UK is still in the EU; and Remainers, who are unhappy at the government policy to deliver Brexit. 

The elections will be seen as an indication of the mood of the electorate against the two main parties which are increasingly fractured over the Brexit issue.

There are 8,374 council seats available in England, 462 in Northern Ireland. Tories hold 4,600 seats, while there is no party majority in Northern Ireland.

According to the Financial Times, more than 100 Conservative councillors wrote to May warning that activists “are refusing to campaign and party donations have ‘dried up’ due to what they see as a betrayal of Brexit”.

There’s already an anger brewing at the money squandered in preparation for a no-deal Brexit, which civil servants were ordered to wind-down in the aftermath of a long extension being granted.

What’s up next – European elections

Brexit Stefan Rousseau Stefan Rousseau

Between 23 and 26 May, European Parliament elections will be held across 27 member states; in Ireland, the election will be held on 24 May.

If Theresa May doesn’t get her deal approved before 22 May, then the UK will have to take part in European elections in the subsequent days, or risk legal action from voters who wish to exercise their right to vote.

The new parliament will sit for the first time on 1 July. The term is for five years.

Ironically, if the UK does take part in the European elections, it’s expected that there will be a surge in pro-Brexit MEPs, as Eurosceptic British citizens who previously didn’t vote, will now vote for Brexit candidates as a form of protest.

EU leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron, used this point to argue in favour of a shorter extension, fearing the ructions anti-EU MEPs could cause in the European Parliament in getting legislation passed.

The UK’s participation in European elections could also cause problems for Ireland; it would mean that Ireland would elect 13 MEPs but that only 11 would take their seats in Parliament until the UK leaves.

Or if the UK leaves: as has been argued before, a long extension could be the path towards no Brexit at all. If 31 October comes and the UK still hasn’t managed to pass the Withdrawal Agreement, and there’s still no majority for what type of Brexit it does want, will the UK call the whole thing off?

In this episode of The Explainer, we discuss what is happening with Brexit at the moment, and what it means for the upcoming European elections.

The Explainer / SoundCloud

Ideas, thoughts, or feedback? Email 

This episode of the Explainer was put together by presenter Sinéad O’Carroll, executive producer and guest Christine Bohan, producer Aoife Barry, and assistant producer/technical operator Nicky Ryan. Design by Palash Somani.  


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