Three days before the United Kingdom was due to exit the bloc, ambassadors from the other 27 countries of the European Union agreed to delay Brexit for up to three months. The agreement by the EU, made in Brussels on October 28, 2019, allows the UK to leave earlier if it and the EU both ratify the withdrawal deal that Prime Minister Boris Johnson negotiated with the EU earlier this month (the “Withdrawal Agreement”). European Council President Donald Tusk announced the decision on Twitter, stating that “The EU27 has agreed to accept the UK’s request for a #Brexit flextension until 31 January 2020.” The decision requires formal written procedures from the UK and the EU27, which are expected to be completed imminently.
According to media reports based on review of a draft of the EU agreement, the extension comes with conditions:
- It requires the UK to appoint a senior official to serve on the next European Commission;
- It excludes any reopening of the Withdrawal Agreement in the future; and
- It requires any unilateral commitment by the UK to be “compatible with the letter and the spirit of the Withdrawal Agreement.”
The EU’s decision also means there is time for the UK to hold an election this year. Prime Minister Johnson has called for a ballot on December 12 but may lack sufficient support in Parliament to hold an election. UK lawmakers continue to consider election options.
The UK voted by referendum in June 2016 to leave the EU, was originally supposed to leave on March 29 but has been unable to ratify a Brexit deal in Parliament. Brexit has now been extended three times this year.
Employers continue to be faced with the requirements to prepare for any outcome. As discussed in our Legal Updates and blog posts, including our September 2019 Legal Update, Brexit: Steps Employers Should Take Now, employees should be made aware of available registrations on which they can capitalize to prolong residency and work authorization, including pre-settled and settled status registration available to EU, EEA, and Swiss nationals in the UK under the EU Settlement Scheme. Recruiters should similarly be aware of the options for citizens’ rights and free movement, including in a no-deal scenario. While elections (or a new referendum) could change the playing field, the “deal” or “no-deal” mobility and settlement scenarios remain essentially unchanged.