Does the UK Parliament have to approve the new Brexit extension till 31-Oct-2019?

If Parliament does not approve it, or does not do so before 11 pm, would that result in a no-deal Brexit tonight?

I am asking because the Institute for Government previously said this about the EU Withdrawal No.5 (Cooper-Letwin) bill, relating to the extension to 12 Apr:

If passed, [...] The Government would also need to amend the exit date in UK law, which it can do under the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018. The bill would mean that the UK Government would not need approval votes to make the legal change

but I am not sure if that bill has since changed.

3 Answers 3


No, but it nearly did.

The Cooper-Letwin bill originally had language to that effect when it first passed in the Commons, but it got removed in House of Lords for precisely the reason you're asking about: they didn't want to end up with a no deal Brexit by accident due to possible overhead in Parliament. (At a more technical level, the other two answers so far cover what a negative instrument is and why it's being used to begin with.)

This live blog covered the amended bill as it went back through the Commons.

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    However, didn't they have to approve the extension to 12th of April? Is the current situation different?
    – P Varga
    Commented Apr 12, 2019 at 8:57
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    @ᆼᆺᆼ: The original bill was so that Government needed to ask for a further article 50 extension, and then Parliament needed to confirm the date or something to that effect. I don't recollect the specific language, but it basically passed in the Commons. And then the Lords amended the bill so that Government could simply accept the extension without going through Parliament. The explainer you cite was last updated on April 5, and refers to the initial bill. Commented Apr 12, 2019 at 9:12

Paragraph 14 of Schedule 7 to the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 originally stated that:

A statutory instrument containing regulations under section 20(4) may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.

...where section 20(4) allows the government to issue an SI to change exit day to match any extension agreed by the EU and UK. This paragraph required both Houses to approve the SI before it comes into force, and is known as the affirmative resolution procedure. (See also this related question.)

However, section 2 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2019 amended this to read:

A statutory instrument containing regulations under section 20(4) is subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.

This is the standard wording which means that the government can issue an SI to come into force whenever it likes, but either House can revoke it within 40 days. This is known as the negative resolution procedure, and makes it easier for the government to make changes it needs without having to wait for Parliament to approve them (though it should be noted that it's extremely rare for Parliament to block or revoke SIs).

With that change in place, the government issued The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 (Exit Day) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2019, which changes the definition of exit day to 31 October 2019 at 11.00 p.m. The SI came into force at 3:15pm on 11 April 2019, and was laid before Parliament an hour later.

It appears in the Votes and Proceedings of the House of Commons for that day, in the list of "Papers subject to Negative Resolution".

Summary: Parliament no longer needs to approve the new exit day, but it has a fixed amount of time in which it can reject it.

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    Of course, parliament is quite adept at rejecting lately, so all bets are off.
    – Chieron
    Commented Apr 12, 2019 at 15:26
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    @Chieron: I suspect both sides would whip against rejecting it. In any case, the SI doesn't actually change exit day; instead, it is a bookkeeping exercise to ensure that UK law matches the agreement with the EU. It is an interesting question as to what would happen if the SI were rejected. Commented Apr 12, 2019 at 15:29
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    @Chieron: Parliament has already repeatedly voted down No Deal. Revoking the SI would effectively be a No Deal, so they're not going to do that, probably.
    – Kevin
    Commented Apr 13, 2019 at 2:05
  • @Kevin they repeatedly voted down everything. This was a joke poking at the embarassing last weeks.
    – Chieron
    Commented Apr 13, 2019 at 10:15

No, because the Cooper bill implements it as a negative instrument. That means that it will happen unless Parliament votes against it, as opposed to the more common positive instrument where Parliament has to vote for it.

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