A cross-party group of UK MEPs has written to every Member of the European Parliament to ask them to consider the extension of the Article 50 timetable.
The letter is signed by MEPs for Scotland Alyn Smith – who coordinated it – and Catherine Stihler.
It concludes: “We want to continue to work for a strong EU – even if it must be one without the UK as a member – and for a UK that can be a reliable partner acting once again on the basis of goodwill and trust. We fear though that both will be undermined by a No Deal or Blind Brexit.
“We therefore ask our friends in the European Parliament, and in EU capitals: be ready to give us the time to avert it.”
The full letter is as follows.
Despite our political differences, as UK MEPs we are united around one fact: if you wish to allow the UK to remain within our EU family, then all ways to do so will necessitate an extension of the Article 50 timetable. Whilst we acknowledge that many details of the next few months remain unclear, it is in a spirit of friendship, solidarity and respect that we ask you, our European friends, to start thinking about this possibility and be ready for this eventuality.
Where the EP will, of course, not have a direct say in any such decision, as MEPs you have influence in your national capitals and on others in these discussions, and a duty to our citizens to find a durable solution. Our concern is that despite the best efforts of the EU’s negotiators we will be presented instead with an unsustainable short term fudge.
In our view, there are significant elements within and around the UK Conservative Party that fully intend to force either a “No-Deal Brexit” or a “No-Detail-Blind-Brexit”, with the express intention of undermining it afterwards. Either scenario will have disastrous consequences for all our citizens and for harmony on our continent and the talks on the future relationship. Brexit will not stop on 29th March.
Extending the timetable is not, we are well aware, presently the official policy of the UK Government. Nevertheless, a change of Prime Minister, collapse of government, or the negotiations, or all three, is quite possible. Even if a vague Withdrawal Agreement is concluded and approved by the UK and European parliaments, there is no guarantee it would be honoured – the opposite is, sadly, a considerable risk. All of the ways to avoid a No-Deal Brexit will require an extension to the Article 50 negotiating period.
We fully understand that the EU must deal with the UK, and the UK Government, as it finds it. Guy Verhofstadt’s comments that the EU should not give an extension to Article 50 to save a UK political party are correct. The internal disputes of the UK Conservative Party are not the responsibility of the EU. Nevertheless, the consequences of the instability and disunity of the UK Government, and the lack of consensus in the UK Parliament will also affect the EU. Hopes for an orderly exit are threatened by the instability in the UK.
The EU cannot avert a No-Deal Brexit if the UK chooses to pursue it. The EU can, however, be ready to assist in avoiding it by leaving the door open for cooler heads, and warmer hearts, in the UK to prevail.
As UK MEPs, we make this call seriously and we weigh our words carefully, fully aware of the gravity of the hour. We want to continue to work for a strong EU – even if it must be one without the UK as a member – and for a UK that can be a reliable partner acting once again on the basis of goodwill and trust. We fear though that both will be undermined by a No Deal or Blind Brexit.
We therefore ask our friends in the EP, and in EU capitals: be ready to give us the time to avert it.
Catherine Bearder MEP (ALDE)
Seb Dance MEP (S&D)
Jill Evans MEP (Greens/EFA)
John Howarth MEP (S&D)
Wajid Khan MEP (S&D)
Jude Kirton-Darling MEP (S&D)
Jean Lambert MEP (Greens/EFA)
Clare Moody MEP (S&D)
Molly Scott-Cato MEP (Greens/EFA)
Alyn Smith MEP (Greens/EFA)
Catherine Stihler MEP (S&D)
Charles Tannock MEP (ECR)
Derek Vaughan MEP (S&D)
Julie Ward MEP (S&D)