MEPs consider nightmare scenario of Brexit delay

Senior MEPs are considering how they would deal with a delay to Brexit and the disruption it would cause to the European Parliament, several officials told POLITICO.

The issue was discussed at a meeting last Tuesday between the European Commission’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and members of the Parliament’s Brexit Steering Group ahead of a vote on the Brexit withdrawal deal on Tuesday in the House of Commons.

An extension to the two-year Article 50 negotiating period would require a request from the U.K. plus unanimity among the EU27. Officially, senior EU figures are reluctant to discuss what will happen if MPs in London reject the deal — “I am not going to go into speculation and a guessing game,” Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told journalists in Bucharest Friday.

But behind the scenes, the EU institutions are having to come to terms with the increasing likelihood that the Brexit date will have to be put back because of the political impasse in London — potentially to give time for a U.K. general election or a referendum on the Brexit deal.

One major problem for the European Parliament would be if the U.K. stays on beyond the European election in May, and into the next Parliament which will be seated in July.

Even if the U.K. does depart on March 29 as planned, the Parliament has other headaches to resolve.

“An extension after the date of the European elections is going to be a conundrum for everybody because there are no rules which can anticipate any of that,” said a European Parliament spokesperson. “If the extension includes the beginning of the next legislature,

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