Why Brexit delay is an EU election nightmare

Uncertainty over the U.K.’s participation in next month’s European Parliament election is already causing headaches and logistical complications in Brussels.

Prime Minister Theresa May announced Tuesday night that she would seek a further “short” extension of the Article 50 negotiating period. But if the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement is not passed before a special European Council summit next week, EU leaders may insist on a long extension, with the U.K. obliged to participate in the election.

Here’s POLITICO’s guide to the dilemmas Brexit presents for the European Parliament election:

Why might the UK have to take part in the European election?

The British government has made clear that it doesn’t want to hold a European election, but a long Brexit delay might not leave London with much choice.

The U.K. has until April 11 to decide whether it wants to participate, paving the way for a longer extension to the Article 50 negotiating period — if EU leaders agree.

“If the British government refuses to organize elections, they will face the European Court of Justice” — European Parliament spokesperson

In a letter to the U.K. Electoral Commission on Monday, Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington gave the green light to start preparations, but made clear that it is still the U.K.’s intention to leave with a deal and not take part.

EU officials have pointed out that every EU member country — even one planning to leave — is legally obliged to take part in a European election.

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