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It’s (Article) 50/50: UK Ratification, Revocation, Extension or Hard Brexit?


Now that UK Cabinet approval for the Brexit deal (in the form of the draft withdrawal agreement published by the EU and the UK on 14 November 2018) has been obtained, attention in the UK turns to its approval by Parliament.

This revives the issue of the UK Parliament’s so-called “meaningful vote” on the deal but also raises a number of questions as to what happens if Parliament votes down the deal. As widely discussed, having notified the European Council of its intention to leave the EU on 29 March 2017 1 , the UK will crash out of the EU at 11pm (UK time) on 29 March 2019 if no withdrawal agreement has entered into force (unless an extension is agreed). This is referred to as a “Hard Brexit”.
If Parliament does vote down the deal, a number of scenarios could arise including a general election, a further referendum, an extension to the Article 50 period, the revocation of the Article 50 notice or a Hard Brexit. Each of these possibilities (which are not all mutually exclusive) gives rise to fundamental legal and practical issues. Further, the question arises as to whether, if the UK Government refuses to pursue any of these options, Parliament can force the Government’s hand.
We consider below the legal issues arising in relation to each of these options, with a view to helping clients assess how likely it is that a withdrawal agreement (whether in its current form or otherwise) will be ratified on the UK side, what the route to ratification might look like, and the likely timescales involved. Of course, the formal entry into force of a withdrawal agreement will also depend on the necessary approvals and ratifications being obtained on the EU27 side. The EU27 leaders are scheduled to meet on 25 November 2018 to kick off this process.
In this publication, we focus on the position in the UK as the UK analysis is particularly fraught.​
Please click here​ to read our latest Brexit briefing in full.

Click here​ for our Brexit Law microsite.



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