Article 50 Extension: Why Time for the UK to Live Through its Crisis is also Good for Europe
The UK’s departure is a strategic and historic disaster for the EU, writes Rosa Balfour (German Marshall Fund). Britain will suffer the most materially, but for the EU Brexit will represent a sharp fracture in a process of relative decline. The truth is that the whole continent is going through a major political crisis and the UK is pioneering it with Brexit. By supporting a quick Brexit, the EU risks not only accelerating its own disintegration, but also having a deeply troubled and unstable neighbour. A long extension of Article 50 would be the best solution to allow both sides to live through their crises and seek regeneration, she concludes.
As the Brexit drama continues to unfold in the House of Commons, showing how bereft it is of any common vision of Britain’s relationship with the European Union, and the risk of the UK crashing out of the EU on 29 March dangerously grows, representatives of European capitals and institutions will discuss this week how to respond to a possible request from London for an extension of Article 50. The dilemma around which Europeans are divided is the duration of the postponement: a short extension period no longer than until 2 July, when the newly elected European Parliament holds its first session or a longer period to allow the UK to hold a referendum and/or explore alternative options to Theresa May’s Deal? A short extension merely buys time: by 2 July the UK and the EU would find themselves in exactly the same cliff-edge dilemma. A long extension would allow the UK to live through its political crisis and creates space for a new debate on Europe – which could benefit the UK and the EU alike.