14th March 2019, 20:41
If the political will to agree a longer Article 50 extension is there, a legal mechanism can be found to accommodate that desire and 'deal' with the issue of the European Parliamentary elections.
This is the freely volunteered opinion of one of the Advocate Generals at the Court of Justice at the EU, Eleanor Sharpston.
It coincides with the British Government's publication of the parameters of extending Article 50 which takes into account procedural and legal parameters and the EU's position.
The United Kingdom will need to request any extension in advance of the March European Council on the 21st and 22nd of March. These could consist of either a short technical extension if a deal is approved within a week, or a longer one which would require the UK to participate in the European Parliament elections.
A short technical extension aims to allow for the passage of domestic legislation, which must be passed in order for a deal to be ratified.
A longer extension, if a deal has not been approved, would provide time for the Government and parliament to determine what course of action the UK should pursue to take that forward.
Any extension would need to have a specific end date and the UK's status during the extension period would remain that of a full Member State. This means that the UK could not use an extended period to start negotiations on the future relationship as the EU can only negotiate these with the UK after it has left.
The EU is on record as saying it will allow an extension if there's a credible justification for it. It will then need to be approved by the EU 27.
The European parliament elections are scheduled to take place between the 23rd and 26th of May, meeting for the first time on the 2nd July.
If the UK were to seek an extension beyond 1 July, and remain a Member State beyond that point, it would need to participate in the elections for two reasons:
First, the EU Treaties provide that EU citizens have the right to be represented in the European elections, and there is no legal mechanism by which the UK could return MEPsto the new European Parliament other than by participating in the elections; and second, for it to perform its functions, including the appointment of the Commission and the adoption of any legislation, the parliament needs to be properly constituted under the EU Treaties, with duly elected representatives from all Member States. A second extension after the 1st of July would not be viable, because without UK MEPsthe Parliament would be improperly constituted, putting the functioning of the EU'sinstitutions at risk.
The European Parliament needs to approve a deal before it can come into force, and due to the elections in May the final pleneryends on the 18th of April.