The European Council agreed Wednesday to extend the deadline for the ratification of the Brexit withdrawal agreement until October 31.
The extension comes after UK Prime Minister Theresa May sent a letter last week in which she requested the deadline be pushed back to May 22 pursuant to Article 50(3) of the Treaty on European Union.
In response, the European Council agrees to an extension to allow for the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement. Such an extension should last only as long as necessary and, in any event, no longer than 31 October 2019. If the Withdrawal Agreement is ratified by both parties before this date, the withdrawal will take place on the first day of the following month.
If the withdrawal agreement is not ratified by May 22, then the UK is legally required to hold European Parliament elections.
The European Council underlines that the extension cannot be allowed to undermine the regular functioning of the Union and its institutions. If the UK is still a Member of the EU on 23-26 May 2019 and if it has not ratified the Withdrawal Agreement by 22 May 2019, it must hold the elections to the European Parliament in accordance with Union law. If the United Kingdom fails to live up to this obligation, the withdrawal will take place on 1 June 2019.
The UK Parliament voted to reject May’s Brexit proposal for a third time in March. Following that rejection, the House of Commons narrowly voted to require May to request this deadline extension.