Should Article 50 be extended?

By Daniel Egglestone

The issue that The Telegraph suggests ‘looks inevitable’ and the BBC says is ‘uncharted territory’ – that of extending Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty – is a dangerous one. The case that we need more time to negotiate our way out of the union we are locked in with Europe is one that will fall on deaf ears in Brussels, as the better part of our requests have, and will burn time in debate and argument that we no longer possess.

Michel Barnier’s flat refusal to renege on the “Backstop”, a proposal that will threaten the rest of the UK’s relationship with Northern Ireland – a constituent part of our nation – is further proof that extra time will not change the attitude of the European negotiating team in any substantial way. A couple of weeks, maybe. A couple of months, perhaps (although it will mean straddling the European elections). But any further extension, only for a deeply torn Parliament to argue over the contents of the final deal will not be acceptable to a European team that believes, as it has said time and again, that the negotiations are over.

It was only on Tuesday that Commons passed Graham Brady’s amendment, by 317 votes to 301, to accept Mrs May’s deal should changes be made to the “Backstop”. As expected, Barnier has refused us again. Giving him more time to think over an issue he has already given a clear answer to adds no pressure, no impetus, to change. With now less than two months until we leave (and legally we do leave the EU at 23:00 on 29 March) and the very real possibility of “No Deal” looming, we need to show our willingness and commitment to leaving the EU no matter what, otherwise Barnier has no reason to change his mind.

Image by Simone Fontana via Flickr

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