/ Insights / Grayling's Brexit Bulletin - 11 April 2019

Free thinking from Grayling people

Grayling's Brexit Bulletin - 11 April 2019

11th April 2019

The BREXIT Bulletin: The dates have changed, but the circumstances haven't
It's 11 April, and the UK is still in the EU. Indeed, it is likely to remain in the EU for some months yet.

There are some who have said all along that the UK would actually never leave, since untangling the legal and political bonds which have built up over 46 years would just be too complex - yet the UK government has always pledged to obey the referendum result.

Last night the Brexit can was kicked yet again further down the road, but this time rather far - over six months down the road in fact, to 31 October. This is the new "29 March 2019" and replaces "10 April 2019" as the new line in the sand. If the UK (or the EU for that matter) has failed to ratify the Withdrawal Agreement by this date, no-deal is the consequence.

That the EU just wants shot of the UK was also evidenced by the provision that, if by some miracle the Withdrawal Agreement is ratified before 31 October, the UK can leave the EU on the first day of the following month. No-one wants this dragging on any longer. 

And then there is the additional complexity of the EU elections. Holding the vote in the UK is anathema to some, and for good reason, since it could well lead to the highest ever turnout for the EU elections in the UK, and perhaps parties standing on a Remain platform end up doing particularly well. 

With revoking Article 50 still a possibility, albeit one that would result in political suicide for whoever presses the button, there are three options left open for the UK:
  1. Leave under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement
  2. Leave with no deal
  3. Remain
Option 1 has to be the most likely option of these three, though it is still unclear where Theresa May will get the additional votes from. No-deal has, at least for now, been ruled out by both the EU and the UK, which leaves Remain as another outside bet.

Revocation, it is worth remembering and as referenced by the ECJ, is not like pushing the pause button - it involves pressing stop, eject, and never use again. Revocation means remaining in the EU for the foreseeable future.

So in this scenario, when will the UK "brexit"? 

A lot can happen in six months - for example, another referendum - but if you are careless enough to want to place bets on anything Brexit-related, the "smart" money must be on an exit either on 31 October, or possibly a few months later (another extension can still be requested by the UK). This would involve the deal being agreed by London as well as the European Parliament (possibly the newly re-elected version) in the next six month period. 

Another option could be a softer Brexit, one that goes against Theresa May's red lines of leaving the Single Market and the Customs Union. This option would also solve much of phase 2 of the negotiations "the future relationship" and would mean that business would be able to continue trading "frictionless" (relatively) . But as long as May stays as Prime Minister, this, too, looks rather unlikely given her strict adherence to the red lines.

As we wrote to clients today, the dates have changed, but the circumstances haven't. There is still no sign of how the UK will resolve this, and whilst the EU has shown patience until now, as President Macron was suggesting, this will soon be in short supply.

In this context, businesses would be highly recommended to continue putting in place their contingency measures for a potential no-deal on 1 November.

If you have any suggestions about the Brexit Bulletin or want to find out more about a specific aspect of Brexit, please do let us know. Please visit the Grayling Brussels website, follow us on Twitter @TheEULobby, and don't forget to check out our Brexit Papers

If you'd like to subscribe to the Brexit Bulletin or Grayling's other intelligence and information newsletters, please click here

This week's content:

The view from Brussels

The EU Lobby - Grayling's new EU Elections website
Grayling  recently launched a brand new website which provides regular updates on the upcoming EU elections, including political gossip, views from the Member States, and policy angles. Visit to see for yourself, and please do let us know if you have comments or questions.
The view from Brussels

Risk of double standards when it comes to EU elections
With the European Council agreeing to extend the Art. 50 negotiating period for a second time, the UK’s participation in the elections is a distinct probability.

The UK’s unexpected participation in the elections would under normal circumstances have the following implications. Opinion polling conducted on 4-7 April suggests that the Conservative and Labour Parties will secure 23% and 38% of the vote respectively. Under proportional representation this would translate into around 19 and 37 seats respectively of the UK’s total of 73.

For the European Parliament this would likely mean that the European Conservative and Reformists (ECR) political group would stand a strong chance of surviving into the 2019-2024 session, due to the retention of the Conservative delegation. Should the ECR survive, it may go some way to hindering the formation of a cohesive nationalist/populist group on the right, which many commentators fear could give the European Parliament a more nationalistic bent.

In addition, the decline of the centre-left Socialists & Democrats (S&D), much of which would have been attributed to the loss of the Labour delegation, would be to an extent mitigated by its retention. In fact, based on the latest polling, the Labour delegation would be significantly larger than during the 2014-2019 session which could make it (perhaps by a factor of two) the largest of the S&D’s national delegations.

The Grayling View: 
In a normal European election the participation of the UK would significantly alter the political balance of the European Parliament.

The S&D may well be in a position to demand a greater share of the spoils in terms of Committee responsibilities, speaking time, and roles on important legislative files. Should the UK participate in the elections and remain a Member State for an extended period into the new mandate, the presence of the temporary UK MEPs would pose important questions for the ability of the European Parliament to function legitimately, with effects that would ripple right to the end of the mandate.

The European Parliament recognises this conundrum, with its President Antonio Tajani stating “We can't accept … that the Parliament could have a variable composition, 751 for a year and then 705, then three who leave, five who arrive because of uncertainty. … We want to know what will happen and how long will last the current transition period ... We want to have certainty on the composition of the Parliament in the first and second phase”. In the period since the 2016 Brexit referendum, the solution to the issue of British MEPs' influence has been to gradually exclude the delegation from positions of influence.

For instance, Vicky Ford was not replaced as Chair of the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) Committee by a British MEP following her 2017 election to Westminster, despite established convention since 2003 that the Chair come from the UK delegation. More recently, the Chair of the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) Committee was removed from rapporteurship of the visa Brexit contingency file amid accusations of national bias.

In the context of a long extension, much has been made of the EU’s insistence that the UK would as a Member State under the “principle of sincere cooperation” be required to act in good faith in regard to the obligations of EU membership. With the EU fearful that the UK could choose to disrupt the key decision-making processes i.e. on the EU budget or mandating of the European Commission, the UK has committed to this as a condition for the granting of the extension. 

This is all well and good. However, what we have not seen is the EU committing to uphold the same principle which is in fact a mutual legal obligation. Should UK MEPs continue to be excluded from influence into the next mandate, the institutions of the EU could be criticised for withholding the benefits of EU membership vis-à-vis the UK.

Indeed, UK citizens' right to equal representation could be said to have been breached on the basis of nationality. Tajani’s comments suggest that there is an awareness that such a situation is legally questionable and perhaps unsustainable into the next session, particularly as revocation remains an option open to the UK.

For this reason we should expect that the UK’s participation in the European elections will have ramifications that will outlive the UK’s membership, if of course the UK ever ceases to be a Member State. 


Dates for your diary

23-26 May 2019 - EU Elections
1 June 2019 - UK to leave the EU if it did not hold EU elections
31 October 2019 - UK to leave the EU

Grayling Brexit Unit

Our Grayling Brexit Unit brings together the very best consultants from across the Grayling network and includes those who have direct experience of working alongside the leading political figures charged with negotiating Brexit in London and Brussels.

The Grayling Brexit Unit is here to support, guide and inform the success of your business and identify how the political dynamics will change as a result of Brexit in both London and Brussels. We are your Brexit experts.

Please contact Robert Francis Tel +32 2739 47 34 ( in our Brussels team or Jonathan Curtis ( in London for more information, and check out our brochure.

 #Brexit Papers 

Brexit Negotiating Documents
The 'Great Repeal Bill'
Brits working in the EU institutions
Article 50

Sir Julian King - The Last UK Commissioner
David Davis – UK Brexit Secretary.
Sir Keir Starmer – Shadow Brexit Secretary.
Sir Tim Barrow – UK Permanent Representative.
Michel Barnier – EU Chief Negotiator.
Sabine Weyand – Barnier’s Deputy.
Guy Verhofstadt – EP Brexit Lead
No-deal – Concrete impact

Grayling Team

Latest Insights

17th June 2019

Grayling's Brexit Bulletin - 14 June 2019

The BREXIT Bulletin: Johnson on top as no-deal...

Read More

20th February 2019

An EU Communications Director, expert in Energy, Environment & Sustainability

Brussels office Grayling is a global Public Affairs and Communications Consultancy. Our Brussels team of 30+ multinational consultants is a hub for EU and Pan-European integrated public...

Read More

19th February 2019

Grayling featured amongst the best EU Public Affairs consultancies!

If you’re looking for the right partner to conduct your EU Public Affairs, we’re delighted to inform you that Grayling has just been listed amongst the best EU Public Affairs consultancies in...

Read More