European Council (Art. 50), 21 March 2019

Publication Date 21/03/2019
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A meeting of the European Council in its EU27 (Art. 50) format was held on 21 March 2019, to address the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union.

Further information:

Due to the United Kingdom's inability to ratify the Withdrawal Agreement within the original timeline provided by Article 50 - by which the UK would leave the EU on 29 March 2019 - the country's Prime Minister formally requested an extension to delay Brexit on 20 March. The letter sent to the President of the European Council requested a delay until 30 June 2019.

Following a discussion, the EU27 leaders agreed to an extension until 22 May 2019 provided that the Withdrawal Agreement is endorsed by the UK Parliament within a week. If it did not, EU leaders agreed to delay Brexit until 12 April 2019, expecting the United Kingdom to 'indicate a way forward before this date'. This was seen by analysts as a solution to avoid a 'cliff edge scenario' in which the UK would withdraw from the EU in a disordely manner, while at the same time protecting the European Parliament elections, set to be held in May 2019.

EU27 leaders highlighted that any unilateral commitment, statement or other act from the UK side should be compatible with the letter and the spirit of the withdrawal agreement. They called for work to be continued on preparedness and contingency at all levels for the consequences of the UK's withdrawal, taking into account all possible outcomes. The Council also endorsed the 'Instrument relating to the withdrawal agreement' and the 'joint statement supplementing the political declaration' agreed between the European Commission and the government of the United Kingdom in Strasbourg on 11 March 2019.

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Commentary and Analysis
The Economist, 22/03/2019: The European Council extends Brexit, with strings attached
EU Law Analysis, 21/03/2019: Brexit and Extending EU Membership: The Legal Issues

Politico, 21/03/2019: EU delays Brexit, gives UK new deadlines
EurActiv, 21/03/2019: Back May’s Brexit deal and you get more time, EU leaders tell Westminster
Deutsche Welle, 21/03/2019: EU offers UK Brexit extension options, initially to April 12
The Local (France), 22/03/2019: EU piles pressure on Theresa May by granting UK short Brexit delay
The Guardian, 22/03/2019: May's appeal falls flat as EU seizes control of Brexit date
RTÉ News, 22/03/2019: EU leaders offer UK a Brexit delay until 22 May
BBC News, 22/03/2019: Brexit: EU leaders agree Article 50 delay plan
El País, 22/03/2019: Spanish PM on Brexit: 'We want a deal, but it no longer depends on us'
Open Europe: Daily Shakeup, 22/03/2019: EU grants unconditional Article 50 extension until April 12

UK Government: Prime Minister's letter to President Tusk, 20 March 2019
European Council: Remarks by President Donald Tusk after the European Council meeting (Art. 50), 21 March 2019
European Council (Art. 50) conclusions, 21 March 2019
UK Government: PM statement at the EU Council, 21 March 2019

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