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    Anti-Brexit demonstrators protest outside Parliament as British PM Theresa May was attending Prime Minister's questions in London, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018

    ‘EU’s No to Brexit Extension Might Be the Best Thing They Could Do’ – Professor

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    European Union Council President Donald Tusk said the bloc should be “open to a long extension” for the United Kingdom if it needs to rethink its Brexit strategy. British MPs will vote on Thursday whether to ask the European Union for permission to delay Brexit.

    On Wednesday evening, the lawmakers voted to reject a no-deal Brexit under any circumstances. According to the BBC, the UK government said the length of the delay will depend on whether MPs back Prime Minister Theresa May's existing withdrawal deal.

    Earlier, European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said that the EU has done everything in its power to help get the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement over the line. He added that the ongoing impasse can only be solved in the United Kingdom.

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    Radio Sputnik has discussed the future of Brexit with Edgar Morgenrot, an economics professor at Dublin City University's (DCU) Business School in Ireland and a member of the country's National Economic and Social Council (NESC).

    Sputnik: If this Brexit delay does happen, how long is it likely to last and do you think that the UK government really has a clear understanding of what is to be done during that delay?

    Edgar Morgenroth: I think that there are a number of issues here. Firstly, of course, it does look like the UK government will be seeking an extension of the Article 50 process from the EU.

    That, of course, is the gift of the EU to give, so the EU could actually say "no" to that extension and that might actually be the best thing that they could do. And then they could seek different kinds of extensions. Ultimately, the EU will ask: what is the extension for?

    At the moment, what we have seen over the last number of years is that the UK at parliament cannot agree on anything other than that they don't want to leave without a deal, but they can't agree on the deal that's there. They can't elaborate what they really want, at least not with a majority.

    So the problem is in Westminster, and it isn't clear that giving them a couple of extra months is going to solve the problem. So that would suggest that a longer delay might be required, which complicates matters as there are European elections coming in May.

    The plan had been that the UK would not actually field candidates for that election. That would actually have to change, because the EU Parliament would be not properly constituted if the UK were still a member of the EU but didn't have parliamentarians.

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    So, it gets very complicated and ultimately, it is always the question: what is the purpose of the delay? Nobody can actually say this delay is necessary to do X, because nobody can agree on anything specific.

    If Theresa May, as it looks, goes for another vote on the deal that has been agreed between the EU and her government, she may or may not get it over the line. But at that point, if she did manage in the next week to get the parliament to vote for her deal, then there would be a clear need for a delay so that the required legislation would have to be passed; so you would have a purpose. But other than that, we don't really see a clear purpose.

    Sputnik: Could you perhaps comment on the chances that exist for the EU to actually reject a delay? What position would that put the UK into? What would their options be? I mean they have to leave on the 29th, right, unless they stop the Brexit process altogether, which they are able to do, I believe, in a unilateral manner without permission?

    Edgar Morgenroth: The EU rules are that the member-states have to unanimously agree. So, that is not a given because some member-states don't worry too much about Brexit. It doesn't really affect them.

    They may have other issues that they want to get agreement on with the rest of the member states. So, they could actually hold the other member-states hostage. So it is not actually a given that the EU would necessarily get this unanimous agreement from the member-states. In my view, it might actually be optimal not to even offer an extension, because the parliamentarians clearly do not want to leave without a deal, there is a majority for that.

    If we get to the 29th of May and they still hold that view, but there is only one deal on offer, that in a way would call the bluff off of those that are trying to sort of interfere with the process, either to get more concessions out of the EU or some who also don't want to leave the EU in the first place.

    So you could call their bluff and simply say: "well, there is no extension. If you don't agree to this deal, you are out without a deal. You don't want that? So there is only one option there or alternatively to stay in."

    Sputnik: That could actually really fast-track the whole process, because it seems that these delays, I mean once again, there has been two years and then we haven't really seen much in the way of the evolution of this deal. We are pretty much dealing with the same issues, the same problems — no new solutions. I think it is very clear that the method towards finding an acceptable deal for all parties was perhaps incorrect. There was no real big plan. I mean there was so much infighting on all sides in the UK. And it just seems that to delay for an indefinite period of time is not going to do anything to improve the situation. Not only that, but the businesses on both sides, both in the EU and the UK, are being really negatively affected because they have no idea what is going to happen going forward.

    Edgar Morgenroth: Absolutely. So businesses can't plan because there is absolutely no certainty. At this point, you can't even say for certain that Brexit will actually go ahead and never mind what kind of Brexit.

    So, the uncertainty is there for business. The issue has been there all along within Westminster. Some are playing politics because they prefer to be in power rather than playing a constructive role in the exit process. That is maybe the position of the Labour leader, for example.

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    You have got hard Brexiteers, who really don't care whether the UK crashes out or not; and they almost prefer to crash out. You have got people who want an orderly Brexit but they can't seem to get the majority.

    You have got a government now in tatters, I mean Theresa May keeps on losing votes. Yesterday her own ministers voted despite an instruction by the party to vote in a particular way — they voted against it. So, it is now a government that seems to have lost control. It is a very difficult position.

    The views and opinions expressed by the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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