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Brexit delayed: What happens next?

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s exit from the European Union was postponed by an agreement in Brussels this month that gave Prime Minister Theresa May until Oct. 31 to persuade parliament to approve the departure terms.

Anti-Brexit placards are pictured in London, Britain April 24, 2019. REUTERS/Toby Melville

May has so far been unable to get the exit package she agreed with the EU last year approved by the British parliament, meaning Brexit day has been pushed back to avoid leaving without a deal.

May hopes Britain can leave the EU before it has to take part in elections for the European Parliament on May 23. But, the timetable is tight.

Below are details of key events:


May has taken the unusual - and among her own Conservative Party, unpopular - step of turning to the opposition Labour Party to try to find an exit deal that will win the support of a majority in parliament. These talks have been going on since April 3.

The government says while the talks are “serious”, one area of difficulty has been agreeing a timetable for how long they should take. Labour says the government has yet to concede any ground.


After a short break, lawmakers returned to parliament on April 23, having been asked by May to reflect on how to break the Brexit impasse.

If no deal with Labour can be reached, the government is proposing to put different options to parliament to find a workable plan. Details of this process are yet to be announced.

The government has less than a month to take all the steps it needs to complete to keep to May’s timetable of leaving before European Parliament elections.

This includes passing legislation known as the Withdrawal Agreement Bill. [L5N2262OJ]


Elections to local and regional government take place in certain parts of the country. These will be used to gauge the electoral impact that failing to deliver Brexit on schedule has had on May’s Conservative Party. If they go badly, it could increase pressure on May to step down.


Britain is due to participate in elections for the European Parliament. May wants to be able to cancel these elections and lead the country out of the EU before this date.

To do that she will need to win a vote in parliament approving a Brexit deal and pass the legislation to implement it. Both stages are difficult because lawmakers are divided over the best way forward.

If May cannot deliver Brexit by this deadline, the elections will go ahead and eurosceptics in her party are likely to increase their calls for her to resign and give a new leader the chance to pursue a different path.

However, there is no formal mechanism by which lawmakers can oust her without also raising the possibility of a general election and a Labour government.


If Britain does not take part in the European Parliament elections and has not ratified an exit deal, the country will leave the EU without any formal agreement on June 1. This was set out on April 11 when the EU agreed to offer May more time.


Britain’s EU membership is due to end on Oct. 31, with or without a deal. If a deal has not been agreed and ratified by then, the government will face the choice of leaving without a deal, seeking more time or cancelling Brexit altogether.

Reporting by William James; Editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Janet Lawrence