The UK and the EU have formally agreed to extend Article 50 until 31 October 2019 11.00pm GMT during the Special European Council Summit held on 11 April 2019.
The extension period may end at an earlier date, if a Withdrawal Agreement is approved by the UK Parliament and its ratification in the UK and the EU completed before 31 October 2019. In this scenario, the day of UK’s exit from the EU will be the first day of the month following the completion of the ratification procedures. Alternatively, Brexit is due to take place on 1 November 2019.
The European Council decision also states that in the event a Withdrawal Agreement is not ratified by 22 May 2019 and the UK is still a Member of the EU on 23-26 May 2019, it is obliged to hold European Parliament elections. If the terms of UK’s exit have not completed their passage through the UK and EU Parliaments and the Council of the EU by 22 May 2019 and the UK refuses to participate in the elections, the extension will cease to apply on 31 May 2019 with the UK leaving the EU on 1 June 2019.
In its Decision, the European Council notes that it expects the UK to comply with the “duty of sincere cooperation” during the extension period and “refrain from any measure which could jeopardise the attainment of the Union’s objectives, in particular when participating in the decision-making processes of the Union“.
The agreed extension is legally binding under international and EU law.
As we have previously commented, the change in the day of exit (which is currently 12 April 2019 following the first extension of Article 50) needs to be reflected in UK law via statutory instrument that amends the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018. On 8 April, the UK Parliament passed the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 5) Bill (now the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2019 (c.16)) that allows for such amendment to be completed under the negative rather than the affirmative procedure for statutory instruments. Unlike the affirmative procedure where both Houses of Parliament need to approve an amendment to an Act of Parliament, in the negative procedure the statutory instrument becomes effective as soon as the Minister signs it. The statutory instrument came into force on 11 April 2019 meaning that the new exit day is now transposed into UK law.