Natalie Mauchline outlines the impact of the most recent Brexit extension.
Theresa May’s Next Steps
The UK has once again avoided the no-deal cliff edge and is now scheduled to leave the EU on 31 October. The extension allows for the UK to leave at an earlier date if an agreement at Westminster is reached. Theresa May has said she wants Brexit to take place “as soon as possible” once MPs agree to the Withdrawal Agreement. She has defended her decision to implement a long Brexit delay, which Jeremy Corbyn branded “a diplomatic failure”. During a statement to the House, she declared this “is not the normal way of British politics” but said it was essential for MPs to find a consensus. Talks between the Labour Party and the UK Government are expected to continue and have grown in importance, since the DUP has made it clear it still cannot support the Withdrawal Agreement.
Meanwhile in Scotland, Holyrood is currently on its Easter recess. Whilst there had been plans to recall parliament if no-deal appeared imminent, the Presiding Officer decided this was no longer a need to recall parliament and it would reconvene as planned on Tuesday 23 April. In response to the extension, the First Minister wrote to the Prime Minister, urging her to hold “cross-administration” talks with the Scottish and Welsh governments. She also expressed her thanks to the European Union for its “patience” regarding Brexit. The National reported Nicola Sturgeon plans to set out her plans for a second independence referendum immediately following the Easter recess. It is likely that, with a longer extension confirmed, calls for a second EU and/or independence referendum will strengthen.
Attention turns to the European elections
Unless MPs agree to the Withdrawal Agreement in the next few weeks, the UK must take part in European Parliament elections in May. Political parties have begun preparations. While five Scottish MEPs, including Alyn Smith and David Martin, will be standing again, one seat remains available following the resignation of Catherine Stihler in January. The Scottish Greens, who have never held an MEP before, recently announced their campaign priorities. Nigel Farage has announced the creation of the Brexit Party and said he will run again in. David Coburn also plans to run again under the new Brexit party, following his resignation from UKIP last year.