With a second extension on the Brexit deadline agreed, the question of whether the UK will participate in the European Parliament elections is crucial. The elections will be held between May 23 and 26, and see more than 700 MEPs elected by the public, about 73 of which will represent the UK for the next five years. But if Britain leaves the UK, which the Prime Minister insists will happen this year, what would happen to those seats? To unpick this topic and the possible scenarios, we need to look at three key upcoming dates and how the outcomes of each could affect things.
KEY DATE 1: May 23 – EU elections
What seems likely is the Government notifies the EU of intentions to participate in the MEP elections, and campaigning will begin.
But it is also likely the Prime Minister will try push her Brexit deal through Parliament before May 22 and call the elections off at the last minute.
Getting the House of Commons’ approval for the draft treaty is still a big challenge — unless the talks between the Conservatives and Labour this month produce a breakthrough.
KEY DATE 2: JUNE 1 – possible Brexit day
If the UK does not take part in the EU elections in May, it will leave the EU on June 1 with or without a deal.
The date is relevant as the new EU Parliament is sworn in on June 2, and if the UK isn’t filling seats it should be out before then.
Under the legal terms of the EU’s decision at the recent Brexit summit, if the UK agrees the deal and manages to get it ratified into law at any point, “the withdrawal will take place on the first day of the following month”.
So if Mrs May manages to get the deal through the Commons in May, Britain would leave the EU with a deal on June 1.
If MPs still do not back Mrs May’s deal, but no elections to the European Parliament have taken place, June 1 will mark a no-deal exit.
KEY DATE 3: OCTOBER 31 – another possible Brexit day
If the UK takes part in EU elections, this will become the new Brexit day.
EU leaders insist that, by this point, the UK must choose whether to ratify the exit treaty, opt for a no-deal Brexit, or cancel its departure.
The deadline is not arbitrary – as French President Emmanuel Macron pointed out, the end of October is the beginning of a new five-year political cycle in Brussels, as a new European Commission takes office.
But the possibility of another delay cannot be excluded, and with the UK filling seats in the EU Parliament, there is no reason to suspect it wouldn’t be approved.
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