Open Letter to the EU Council: we want a significant extension of article 50.
Updated: Mar 20, 2019
We call upon the UK and EU institutions and all British and Northern Irish democrats and indeed all democrats within and outside the EU to support a significant extension of the Article 50 process.
Last week, the House of Commons, the sovereign representative of the British people, voted overwhelmingly in favour of an extension to Article 50. The EU cannot and should not ignore a vote of two thirds of the British Parliament. The onus is now on the European Council to act in the best interests not only of the UK, but of European democracy as a whole, by agreeing to a formal extension of Article 50.
We think the length of this extension should be significant. It is overwhelmingly clear now that the UK Parliament, the UK government and EU representatives cannot agree on a mutually beneficial Brexit deal. There is still no clarity about what kind of Brexit UK citizens want, nor is there any conclusive indication of what kind of Brexit is likely to obtain the approval of the UK Parliament. A delay of few months would not offer a chance for clarity and consensus to emerge. It would only prolong the agony of the current process, with the never ending discussion between a deal that few want and a no deal that many fear. Worse still, the specter of a catastrophic no-deal would still loom large. This is why an extension of at least a year is essential.
Such a significant extension of Article 50 would have three positive effects. It would allow sufficient time for an inclusive democratic process within the UK, centering on the main issues of the negotiations and allowing a renewed dialogue between leavers and remainers. In the short term, it would also allow UK citizens to participate in the May 2019 European elections. This would allow a democratic discussion in the UK on how to overcome the Brexit deadlock while also enriching the European parliament election campaign with British voices, that will contribute to determine the future of the Union. Finally, it would allow sufficient time for the citizens of the UK to reclaim the means for an appropriately informed last word on the results of the negotiations, whether through a public vote, a general election, or a legally-binding process like the citizens' assemblies process that preceded the Irish referendum on abortion in 2017.
Brexit is one of the most consequential decisions for the present generation and those to come.
The future of the UK and that of the EU are deeply intertwined. What will happen in the next few days will affect the lives of millions of citizens in the UK and in the EU for decades to come. A chaotic conclusion of the Brexit process should not be allowed. If Brexit is a crisis of democracy, as it undeniably is, then the only solution to this crisis must be a renewal of democracy. This starts by granting a sensible and significant extension to Article 50.
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