What is Article 50 and why's it at the heart of the Brexit crisis?

What is Article 50 and why's it at the heart of the Brexit crisis?

BRITAIN is no longer expected to leave the EU by March 29 after Parliament overwhelmingly voted to extend Article 50.

Here's what we know about that piece of legislation that's got us all hot under the collar.

What is Article 50?

Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty is a very basic five-point plan that allows any country to leave the EU.

At just 250 words it is light on detail for the momentous move that the UK is still trying to make, nearly three years after the referendum.

It states: “Any member state may decide to withdraw from the union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.”

The UK was the very first country to trigger Article 50, and did so on Wednesday, March 29, 2017.

This set ticking the two-year period in which the UK is legally required to leave the EU – and sparked a furious race to get a Brexit deal through within this timeframe.

What will happen if Britain extends Article 50?

With no deal agreement in sight, MPs endorsed Theresa May's plan to ask Brussels for an extension to the Article 50 process on March 14, 2019.

The move means Britain WON'T quit the EU on March 29 – as the PM has promised for the past two years.

Mrs May will next week bring her Brexit deal back to the Commons for a third meaningful vote.

She says that if it passes, she will then ask the EU for a "short technical extension" until the end of June, to give Parliament the time to force through the necessary legislation.

But if the deal is defeated again, the PM has warned that Britain will have to stay in the EU beyond the summer and take part in European Parliament elections.

It is still possible for EU leaders to block Mrs May's request for a delay when they meet in Brussels next week.

But most have signalled they will accept a relatively brief extension as long as Britain is still on track to leave with a deal.

Extending Article 50 would give Parliament more time to finalise a deal, though at this stage it's not clear how much time will help.

It's also not clear if Britain will have to hold elections to the European Parliament if the UK is still a member state in May.

Why is Article 50 at the heart of the Brexit crisis?

May has faced criticism  from both the Remain and Leave camps for triggering Article 50 too early.

Those against the move have argued that rather than initiating the withdrawal, May should wait until there was a cabinet agreement on the UK's stance and they had their ducks in order.

But there was also considerable pressure for May to trigger the withdrawal immediately by those who were impatient to leave the EU.

In fact most MPs seemed to want it at the time, with 498 of our lawmakers voting for the Article 50 bill in February 2017.

Now the encroaching deadline has seen panicked MPs take part in a number of votes to find a solution to the Brexit stalemate.

They won't agree on Theresa May's "meaningful vote" – or at least have rejected the first two she'd agreed with Europe.

This week they also took a No Deal and second referendum off the table and finally agreed to extend Article 50 (see above on how this will work.)

It's a controversial move for those who voted to Leave the EU, as well as Remainers who are not much enjoying the spectacle.

It could cost us too – Brussels is expected to slap an extra £6.5billion on top of the agreed £39billion pay-off if we stay for an extra four months.

Furious Brexiteers warned on Saturday night that suspending Article 50 beyond March 29 departure date would rob public services of much needed cash.

Tory MP Esther McVey said: “Not only is extending Article 50 a betrayal of the British public, it is a hugely expensive betrayal.

“That money would be far better spent on our police, our prisons locking up those who commit knife crimes and our hard-pressed schools.”


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