October 9, 2019 / 5:13 PM / 2 months ago

Countdown to divorce - the meetings that will decide Brexit

(Reuters) - The following events over the next three weeks will determine whether Britain exits the European Union as planned on Oct. 31 or the three-year-old Brexit saga takes another twist.

FILE PHOTO: Prime Minister Boris Johnson sits down with Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Government Buildings during his visit to Dublin, September 9, 2019

Oct 10 – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets his Irish counterpart, Leo Varadkar, in northwest England in what is billed as a last chance for them to clear the biggest hurdle to an agreed Brexit: future arrangements for the border between EU-member Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland.

Oct 13 - German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron meet at the Elysee Palace to prepare for upcoming summits where Brexit will top the agenda. If the EU is to make a breakthrough concession, it will require the blessing of the bloc’s two most influential members.

   

Oct 14 – British parliament reconvenes, setting the stage for further attempts by lawmakers to ensure the Oct. 31 deadline for withdrawal is extended, regardless of the prime minister’s promise that the UK will leave on that date, deal or no deal. Johnson’s legislative agenda will be set out by the British monarch in the traditional Queen’s Speech. 

Oct 16 - France and Germany hold their annual summit. It is an opportunity for ministers from both countries to discuss a range of bilateral issues, but Brexit will be sure to figure prominently in these discussions.

Oct. 17-18 - EU leaders meet in Brussels for a European Council summit. If a Brexit agreement has not been struck at this point, EU officials say, it is unlikely one could be hammered out here. The summit agenda also includes the bloc’s next long-term budget from 2021, its troubled relationship with Turkey, the EU membership prospects of Albania and North Macedonia, as well as ambitious climate policies.

   

Oct 19 – If the stalemate is not broken at this point, a law recently passed by British parliament dictates that London must ask the EU to extend the Oct. 31 deadline to Jan. 31 – a period in which a national election may be held to try to break the Brexit deadlock.

The British parliament will hold a special Saturday sitting on Oct. 19 to decide what to do. The last time it sat on a Saturday was in 1982 after Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic. Opponents of Brexit will march through central London to demand another referendum.

Late October – EU diplomats and officials expect an extraordinary summit of EU leaders before Oct. 31. If there is no deadline extension and no agreed divorce, they will use such a summit to make final preparations for a rocky, no-deal split.

Oct 31 – Unless this deadline is extended, Britain will cease to be an EU member at 2300 London time.

Writing by Mark Bendeich; Editing by Gareth Jones

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