Any plans the government might have to delay Brexit by extending the Article 50 process up to July, might now be in doubt.
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The perceived wisdom – well, by me anyway – has been that the Article 50 process could be delayed up until just before the new EU Parliament starts sitting on the 2nd of July this year, in order to get the maximum extension without requiring the UK to hold MEP elections in late May.
That would have given the chance of a full three month delay for Mrs May to supposedly get the legal niceties fully in place to support her Withdrawal Agreement, if UK MPs vote her deal through that is.
But according to the Guardian, the German newspaper Die Welt has managed to get its hands on a confidential briefing paper for German MPs that says, if Article 50 is extended beyond the elections themselves on the 23rd to the 26th May, then the UK must be involved or it would be a breach of EU law. Even if we were to leave just a few days later.
This comes about because while we are in the Article 50 period, extended or not, all citizens have the fundamental right to stand and vote in those elections.
Further and probably more worrying for them, is that EU nationals living in the UK during such a period would therefore be disenfranchised if we did not hold the elections when due.
This could leave the UK well and truly open to all sorts of legal action.
Not only that, if MPs do vote to extend Article 50 on March the 14th and, either leave the date open or select a time-frame that takes it beyond May the 22nd, then there is the possibility that legal action could be taken by potential voters against the government to force the elections to take place.
That means there are no fancy legal loopholes and also that the current MEPs cannot just be allowed to retain their seats for a while after July the first.
So, to avoid this possibility, an Article 50 extension would have to be under eight weeks long, or a maximum of 54 days to be precise. And if you look at how much progress hasn't been made in the last 54 days then you question the point of such an extension.
So, a shorter extension than originally thought, eh?! Sounds like the inevitable outcome of one of those E-Mail adverts that us blokes get from time to time, doesn't it?
And of course the UK parliament does not have the sovereignty to legislate this problem away, as it is EU law and we must comply with it until we leave the bloc.
Further, there are strict minimum notification periods for calling elections and if EU MEP elections are not properly called in the UK by mid April, they cannot be held in time.
The Guardian also reports that we will only be allowed to extend Article 50 once.
And here's the big one:
If the UK does not plan to hold EU MEP elections, then under this advice it cannot legally extend Article 50 beyond the 22nd of May for fear of legal consequences and cannot go beyond the 1st July anyway – because we cannot be members without MEPs in the parliament while it's sitting.
But further, get this, in great news for Brexiteers, without EU MEP elections the UK will also not be able to revoke the Article 50 letter and reverse Brexit either, because we would have no elected MEPs and no seats to put them in! Totally against EU law!
The European Union (EU) has already, as I understand it, reallocated and/or removed those seats currently occupied by UK MEPs and the upcoming EU MEP elections are all planned on that basis.
Does anyone really think that the EU is just going to undo all their Brexit preps and put all the previous procedures in place so we can have an extra couple of weeks grace time?
Now this information, having come from the Guardian, will be known by the whole EU-loving section of the UK population, from Theresa May downwards.
So, when that awful Withdrawal Agreement gets voted down again on March the 12th, MPs will then vote the next day to rule out a no deal Brexit.
Then the following day, the 14th March, they will probably try and amend the current proposal that would ask for a short Article 50 extension to change it into a lengthy one to try and ensure that MEP elections are held, so keeping their Remain dreams alive.
The upshot so far as I can see is that, if we have a short Article 50 extension the only way the Remainers can keep the UK inside the EU is to force a unilateral revocation of the Article 50 letter and declare we are taking part in the MEP elections by about the 13th April at the absolute and outside latest.
That would force the EU to allow us to stay in.
The other option for Remainers, is to somehow get the EU to agree to a very long (that's years) Article 50 extension, knowing that the UK will be participating in these elections.
Hence why I say Remainers MPs will now be looking to amend any motion the government puts forward for vote on a short Article 50 extension to make it into a two year plus delay.
As time marches on and this becomes clearer to our MPs, the risk is that they do, in the end, cave in to Mrs May's terrible deal. But they must all surely be aware that her deal is so bad that the vast majority of voters would despise any MP who voted for it and it would destroy them and their parties.
And can you imagine how reviled MPs would be, if they decided to string out this whole saga for another two years, with the inevitable calls for a second EU referendum? More nails in their already well sealed coffins.
Let's just hope that they see sense and decide that it would be far better overall to vote on the 13th March to opt for leaving on WTO terms, so taking back full control!
But somehow I get the feeling that this still has a way to go.