Britain’s exit from the European Union was postponed by a late night agreement in Brussels last week that gave Prime Minister Theresa May until 31 October to persuade parliament to approve the Brexit terms.
May has so far been unable to get the exit package she agreed last year with the EU approved by the British parliament, meaning Brexit day has been pushed back to avoid leaving without a deal.
May says she still hopes Britain can leave the EU before the country has to take part in elections for the European Parliament in late May. But, the timetable for doing so is very tight.
Below are details of key events:
ONGOING – TALKS WITH LABOUR PARTY
May has taken the unusual – and among her own party, unpopular – step of turning to the Labour Party to try to find an exit deal that will win the support of a majority in parliament.
These talks have been going on since 3 April and are expected to continue this week even though parliament is currently not sitting.
Labour says the government has yet to concede any ground, but foreign minister Jeremy Hunt on Monday described the talks as more constructive than people think.
23 APRIL – PARLIAMENT RETURNS
Cabinet Office minister David Lidington said on Sunday the talks could not ‘drag out’ and said it would be time to take stock when parliament returns from its current break on 23 April.
If no deal with Labour can be reached, the government is proposing to put different options to parliament to find a workable plan. Details of this process are yet to be announced.
The government will have only a month to take all the steps it needs to complete to keep to May’s timetable of leaving before European parliament elections.
2 MAY – LOCAL ELECTIONS
Elections to local and regional government take place in certain parts of the country. These will be used to gauge the electoral impact that failing to deliver Brexit on schedule has had on May’s Conservative Party.
If they go badly, it could increase pressure on May to step down.
23 MAY – EUROPEAN ELECTIONS
Britain is currently due to participate in elections for the European Parliament. May wants to be able to cancel these elections and lead the country out of the bloc before this date.
To do that she will need to win a vote in parliament approving a Brexit deal and pass the necessary legislation to implement it. Both stages are politically very difficult because MPs are divided over the best way forward for the country.
If May cannot deliver Brexit by this deadline, the elections will go ahead and eurosceptics in her party are likely to increase their calls for her to resign and give a new leader the chance to pursue a different path.
However, there is no formal mechanism with which dissatisfied MPs can oust her without also raising the possibility of a general election and a Labour government.
1 JUNE – NO DEAL DAY?
If Britain does not take part in the European Parliament elections but has not ratified an exit deal, the country will leave without any formal agreement on 1 June. This was set out on 11 April when the EU agreed to offer May more time.
31 OCT – BREXIT DAY
Britain’s EU membership is due to end on October 31, with or without a deal. If a deal has not been agreed and ratified by then, the government will face the choice of leaving without a deal, seeking more time, or even cancelling Brexit altogether.