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Section 13(4) of the European (Withdrawal) Act

Volume 656: debated on Friday 15 March 2019

This statement is being made for the purposes of section 13(4) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 and outlines how the Government intend to proceed in the light of the House’s decision on Tuesday 12 March 2019 not to agree to a resolution for the purposes of section 13(1)(b) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018.

The Government regret the House’s decision of Tuesday 12 March 2019 but still believe that the best way forward is for the UK to leave the EU in an orderly manner having agreed the withdrawal agreement and political declaration.

We note the House’s resolutions of Wednesday 13 and Thursday 14 March 2019 not to leave the European Union without a deal and to seek an extension to the article 50 process.

In accordance with the motion the House approved on Thursday 14 March 2019 the Government will now seek to agree an extension with the EU. The European Council has to approve any extension by unanimity, meaning it would require all the leaders of the other 27 EU member states to agree the UK’s request.

As the motion stated, if the House has passed a resolution approving the negotiated withdrawal agreement and the framework for the future relationship by Wednesday 20 March 2019, then the Government will seek to agree with the European Union a one-off extension of the period specified in article 50(3) for a period ending on 30 June 2019 for the purpose of passing the necessary legislation to implement the withdrawal agreement into our domestic law and complete the ratification process. However, if the House has not reached such agreement by the 20 March 2019 then it is highly likely that the European Council at its meeting the following day would require a clear purpose for any extension, not least to determine its length, and that any extension beyond 30 June 2019 would require the United Kingdom to hold European Parliament elections in May 2019.

It is expected that the EU will use the March European Council on 21 and 22 March 2019 to consider and reach a decision on a request from the UK to extend the article 50 period.

As soon as possible following agreement at the EU level we will bring forward the necessary legislation to amend the definition of exit day in domestic legislation. This statutory instrument will be laid, before it is made, under section 20(4) of the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018.

This legislation is subject to the draft affirmative procedure and so would need to be actively approved in each House. The legislation would give effect to any agreement with the EU on an extension, so would not be laid before Parliament until that agreement had been reached.