Professor Simon Usherwood’s thoughts on the decision by the EU27 to extend Article 50 to 31 October.

The weight of the decision is much more on the safeguarding of the EU’s functioning than on the extension to 31 October:

- failure to hold the European Elections means exit on 31 May;

- firm words on sincere cooperation;

- no renegotiation of the Wihdrawal Agreement or start of future relationship talks.

It is also worth noting the June review of this: the EU27 are trying to avoid more last-minute late nights (although on the evidence they actually quite like them).

But the most striking is the complete absence of wording in the decision (or the Conclusions or Tusk’s statement) on the UK’s need to have a plan for unlocking this. That’s a big shift from the previous European Council.

That suggests either that the EU27 got distracted by safeguarding language (unlikely) or that they have given up trying to pin UK down on this (more likely).

An optimist might see this as a removal of one key barrier to further extensions. A pessimistic might say it is part of the EU27 giving up hope on the UK and heading towards much toughness in the Autumn.

A final note, on the length of the extension.

End of October (assuming it’s used) takes the UK through the European Parliament group formation, most of the European Commission election process, but still allows the EU to adopt the 2020 budget post-exit.

It is clearly a compromise to the French, since year-end was the balance of opinion beforehand.

The Big Question is whether 6.5 months is enough for the UK to change its situation.

Certainly, it is long enough for a leadership challenge (via a motion of no-confidence), a General Election, or even (just) a referendum, but any of those things need to be got rolling relatively soon.

No surprised that Westminster took this as a sign that some rest is needed and the next fortnight is a ‘normal’ Easter break.

The government has to decide whether to call time on talks with Labour and then when to return to the Commons for more indicative votes.

To note on this, Theresa May’s statement at the European Council didn’t suggest any cunning plan on this front (unsurprisingly!).

In sum, the European Council decision got everyone out of a hole, but without any clarity on how to avoid falling back into it later this year (or much sooner, if the UK messes about on the European Elections).🔷

Read the European Council’s decisions in full.

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(This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article, with the author’s consent, with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected. | The author of the tweets writes in a personal capacity.)

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(Cover: Flickr/European Council - European Council meeting. | 22 Jun 2017. / Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.)