Saturday 16 March 2019 11:03 am

EU gives UK July deadline for Brexit delay if country doesn’t participate in European elections

The EU will terminate Britain's membership of the bloc on 1 July if the country does not take part in the European elections scheduled for 23-26 May, according to a document seen by the Financial Times. 

The draft paper reportedly outlines that if the UK seeks an extension to Article 50 of more than three months than it must take part in the election.

Read more: Government ferry contracts to cost millions more if Brexit is delayed

European leaders will decide at a summit next week whether to delay Brexit beyond its current date of 29 March and how long an extension, if any, should be granted. All 27 leaders must unanimously agree. 

The document also states the legal constraints on the EU over a possible extension, warning that arns that its institutions would “cease being able to operate in a secure legal context” if the UK does not hold elections but remains in the bloc beyond the end of June.

It could be a legal standpoint that aids Prime Minister Theresa May to get Brexiteers that have opposed her deal twice, to vote for it in a third round next week.

May that the UK will need to seek a much longer extension, likely of over a year, if her deal is rejected for a third time. It would also force the Conservative party into an election campaign.

“No extension should be granted beyond July 1 unless the European Parliament elections are held at the mandatory date,” the paper said according to the FT. “If they are not held, the extension should terminate its effects before the European Parliament meets on 2 July.”

Read more: Hammond in Brexit talks with DUP as government seeks support on deal

European commissioner Jean-Claude Juncker said earlier this week that if the UK was leaving the EU it must do so by the European elections, on 22 May, but the draft paper states it would not be necessary until newly elected MEPs take their seats on 2 July.

May won backing from the House of Commons on Thursday to seek an extension to 30 June if her withdrawal agreement secures a majority vote at the third time of asking.