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The Brexit transition extension 2.0

Fabian Zuleeg , Tobias Lock , Jannike Wachowiak

Date: 11/06/2020
The deadline for securing an extension to the ongoing Brexit transition is nearing fast. If the UK government refuses to request an extension now, what are the options?

While there is an urgent need for extending the Brexit transition period, not least due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the UK government is adamantly refusing to either ask for or accept an extension. It is highly unlikely that the government will change its mind before 1 July, the deadline stipulated by the Withdrawal Agreement to agree to an extension of up to one or two years.

Assessing the different scenarios, which all involve huge uncertainties, this paper argues that the most legally sound option appears to be the conclusion of a mixed treaty. But even then, a lot of obstacles remain. A mixed agreement would involve a lengthy ratification process and the likely return of vested interests and political disagreements within the UK and the EU. 

Without an extension of the current transition period, the question of how to secure more time might resurface later this year. At the moment, Boris Johnson believes the immense time pressure to agree on a deal by the end of the year will concentrate minds and result in last-minute concessions from the EU. Once he realises that the EU is not willing to compromise the integrity of the Single Market to grant him the deal he wants, the question of how to buy more time will be back on the agenda.

Overall, it is highly uncertain whether a late extension request can still be accommodated. By letting the deadline under the Withdrawal Agreement pass, the UK government once again increases the chances of a no-deal outcome.

Read the full paper here
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