Brexiteer: Extend Article 50 by a longer period to maintain influence in Europe

Martin Howe QC from Lawyers for Britain speaks to Sky News' Adam Boulton. Photograph: Sky.

Martin Howe QC from Lawyers for Britain speaks to Sky News' Adam Boulton. Photograph: Sky. - Credit: Archant

An influential Brexiteer, who has given legal advice to the European Research Group, has claimed that extending Article 50 by 21 months would be better to avoid Theresa May's deal.

Martin Howe QC, chairman of Lawyers for Britain and who has given a number of presentations to the Tory Brexiteers in the ERG, has written for Tory activist website Conservative Home outlining why a long delay to Article 50 is nothing to fear.

He cites the influence that it would bring within the EU as a strong reason for it.

Howe claims that a short extension to Article 50 of less than three months - as being proposed by Theresa May - would make no practical difference.

Instead he argues an extended period of around 21 months - which would reflect the proposed implementation period set out in the Withdrawal Agreement - would give more time for planning Brexit.

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He says it would also ensure the country has a vote and representation in EU institutions during an important period for the UK.

Howe writes: 'In objective terms, a 21-month Article 50 extension is miles and miles better from a Leave perspective than May's appalling deal.'

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He explains: 'The big difference would be that under an Article 50 extension, the UK would continue to be represented in EU institutions, and continue to exercise a vote and veto (where unanimity is required) over new EU rules. Further, we would elect a new phalanx of MEPs, large numbers of whom would be Brexit supporters who would be robust in defending Britain's interests and in disrupting the EU's centralising plans.'

Howe says that it would prevent a 'backstop' after 1st January 2021 and, while there would still be financial obligations, would mean no further obligations after the UK departs the EU.

The Brexiteer has urged MPs not to be thrown by suggestions that any Article 50 extension only advantages Remainers that want to stop Brexit or hold a second referendum and focus on how it could help those that want to Leave too.

'The problem with May's deal is that it poisons Brexit by closing off the freedom of action which is the whole point of Brexit, and drains away its advantages. Those who blithely talk about busting out of the backstop Protocol in the future by breaching treaty commitments gravely underestimate the difficulties of pursuing such a course of action and the damage to the UK's standing and international interests if it were to be attempted.

'If Brexit supporters are complicit in miring the UK for a decade or a generation in such a terrible vassal arrangement with the EU, inevitably calls will grow for us to re-join the EU in order at least to get back a vote on the rules which we have to follow.'

The advice is likely to assure Brexiteers that have been warned that they risk no Brexit at all if they do not back May's deal.

However, as Howe adds, any extension to Article 50 is reliant on all EU member states agreeing.

Last year Brexiteer Nadine Dorries was mocked on television for criticising Theresa May's Brexit plan because it takes away the UK's influence in the European Union.

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