Brexit: Troubled Negotiations Failed. What Next?

Author:Mr Jean-Luc Soulier
Profession:Soulier Avocats

We are only two months ahead of the expiry of the two-year timeframe provided for by Article 50 of the Treaty on the European Union that will entail the automatic exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union, unless if this timeframe is extended or if an agreement on a transition period is reached. Following the UK Parliament's rejection of the withdrawal agreement concluded in Brussels on November 25, 2018, a no-deal Brexit seems less and less avoidable.

In a Law dated January 19, 2019 and published in the Official Journal on January 20, 2019, the French Parliament has just authorized the Government "to take measures by way of Ordinances to prepare for the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union."

Before briefly describing the ins and outs of this Law, it appears essential to recall the events that led to this imbroglio in order to fully grasp the issues at stake, both for the United Kingdom and for the other 27 Member States of the European Union.

The unholy alliance within the UK Parliament between brexiters who oppose the withdrawal agreement and those who call for a new referendum has spelt the end of the agreement negotiated by Theresa May.

Both the most ardent brexiters and the proponents of a new vote saw in the withdrawal agreement nothing less than the continuation of the United Kingdom's membership of the European Union until December 31, 2020, or even December 31, 2022, without the prerogatives of a fully-fledged Member State and without any guarantee on the rules that will apply after expiry of the transition period. In short, for both sides, it was taking a step back for a better jump... into the void.

Following the June 23, 2016 referendum, the United Kingdom is the first member of the European Union that used the withdrawal option provided for under Article 50 of the Treaty on the European Union.

According to the provisions set forth in said Article 50:

Either a withdrawal agreement is reached within the two-year timeframe that started running on March 29, 2017, date on which the British Prime Minister officially notified the United Kingdom's decision to withdraw. With only two months to go before the deadline, no one believes any longer that this will happen. Either the European Council unanimously decides to extend this period in order to allow for further negotiations. This scenario also seems unlikely since the positions now appear to be irreconcilable following the rejection of the November 25, 2018...

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