May was unable to ratify the withdrawal agreement within that time and again requested a further extension. The EU has opted for a flexible timetable that gives the UK a maximum deadline until 31 October. Prime Minister Boris Johnson wins the British general election. It is therefore likely that the Brexit deal will soon be adopted. If the British Parliament approves the agreement, the European Parliament can vote on it in January. The transition period ends in accordance with the withdrawal agreement. The Council (Article 50) adopted a decision on the signing of the withdrawal agreement. It also approved a draft decision on the conclusion of the withdrawal agreement and decided to send this draft decision to the European Parliament for approval. But because it is uncomfortable for the Prime Minister, who was trying to distance himself as much as possible from the extension, he had previously promised to rather die in a ditch than claim one. The fatigue of Brexit is now more palpable in the EU-27, so it has been politically more difficult to agree on an extension this time. France was even more reluctant to sign the plan than last time, arguing that there was a need for a much clearer sense of extension.

The parliamentary elections in December seem to have responded to France`s request. Mr Johnson is forced to accept the extension by the Benn Act, which was passed by the British Parliament in September and aims to avoid a non-agreement crash from the EU. It states: “The Prime Minister must inform the President of the European Council, immediately after such a decision, that the United Kingdom accepts the proposed extension.” After signing the extension this week, Brussels will see the arms bent from the touchline, while the next steps will be decided at Westminster. The EU is already preparing a new task force within the European Commission, headed by Mr Barnier, to lead negotiations with the UK after Brexit. If Donald Tusk, the outgoing President of the European Council, reminds the British government to make the most of the extra time offered by successive enlargements, he also offers a friendly advice to the United Kingdom: prepare for the next phase of the negotiations, arguably more difficult. With the third extension, the EU has confirmed that it will not renegotiate the agreement during its extension. But that sounds like attitude. The same thing was said in the second extension, but the agreement on the table was amended to find an alternative solution to the Irish border issue. The EU and the UK reach an interim agreement. It includes a transition period until 31 December 2020, during which all EU rules will continue to apply.

It also covers the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. On 14 January 2019, Presidents Tusk and Juncker exchanged letters with Prime Minister May. In their letter, the Presidents reacted to the points raised by the British Prime Minister and clarified the Brexit withdrawal agreement and the political declaration. “We will both be ready to sign the withdrawal agreement as soon as the useful vote in the British Parliament is over, ” he said.

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