Every member of the EU has to agree any extension to article 50.

Does this mean the UK PM could (technically) use his vote in the European Council to veto his own request for an extension?

  • 2
    No, but the UK is relatively wealthy so the PM could potentially bribe/incentivize another member state to use their veto...
    – jl6
    Sep 10, 2019 at 21:33
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    @jl6 : I like it, doesn't seem plausible though, can't think 'who' in the EU might be amenable to 'incentives' :)
    – Pelinore
    Sep 10, 2019 at 21:40
  • 2
    @jl6 If he could find another member state that believed he would be in power long enough to pay the bribe. Sep 11, 2019 at 8:51
  • 1
    @jl6 He would have to request funds from Parliament to issue the bribe, and they are extremely unlikely to acquiesce.
    – James
    Sep 11, 2019 at 13:46
  • 3
    @James Nah, he could just launch a GoFundMe.
    – reirab
    Sep 11, 2019 at 21:30

2 Answers 2


No, by paragraph 4 of article 50 (citing 2 and 3 as well because 4 refers back to those):

  1. A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention. In the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council, the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union. That agreement shall be negotiated in accordance with Article 218(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. It shall be concluded on behalf of the Union by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament.
  2. The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.
  3. For the purposes of paragraphs 2 and 3, the member of the European Council or of the Council representing the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in the discussions of the European Council or Council or in decisions concerning it.

So specifically, the last part excludes the UK from participating in discussions of extension as well as negotiating and concluding an agreement on behalf of the EU Council.

Or as the author of Article 50, Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, puts it in an interview with Politico (regarding paragraph four):

"It’s very important that Britain is not a third country throughout the whole process of the Article 50 negotiation. Up to the moment when we leave, we are a full member. Therefore you have to have sub-paragraph four, saying that when they’re talking about the divorce, the Brits won’t be in the room and if they are in the room, they won’t be voting."

  • Cheers for the swift reply :)
    – Pelinore
    Sep 10, 2019 at 13:20
  • "unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period." seems to contradict the answer!
    – phuzi
    Sep 12, 2019 at 12:20
  • @phuzi in that case the leaving member state is not in agreement with the extension altogether. The question is about using a veto like EU members could. That's not normally an issue, but in case of PM Johnson he may not want the extension that his country has required him to request.
    – JJJ
    Sep 12, 2019 at 12:37

It depends on your definition of "veto".

Under Article 50(4), the UK does not have a vote in the discussions on whether or not the European Council offers an extension. Thus, in the strictest sense, the UK does not have a veto.

However, under Article 50(3), the extension cannot take place without the UK's consent. Declining any extension offered can be considered, for all intents and purposes, as effective as a veto.

† The European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act 2019 limits the power of the UK Prime Minister to decline an extension offered before 31 October 2019.

  • So a "yes, but" in your view then? then I suppose the follow up question would be does the brexit delay bill as passed into law (I've been unable to determine if any amendments were made b4 it was, so I suspect not) allow any way for the PM to declining (or otherwise avoid accepting) an extension if the EU offers one?
    – Pelinore
    Sep 10, 2019 at 21:16
  • 1
    The PM would be allowed to decline an extension if (a) the extension is to some other date than 31 January at 23:00 GMT, and (b) the House of Commons votes against approving said extension.
    – Joe C
    Sep 10, 2019 at 21:27
  • OK, so an effective 'no' answer to the follow up question then :)
    – Pelinore
    Sep 10, 2019 at 22:05
  • @Pelinore I'd say it's a "no". The UK doesn't have a vote, so it can't veto, which was what you were asking. The UK has other means of achieving the same result, such as not requesting an extension, or declining an extension offered, but none of those are vetos. Sep 11, 2019 at 12:20
  • 4
    The thing is "The UK" isn't exactly unified right now. The PM wants to leave on the current date, with or without a deal. Parliment on the other hand has passed a law ordering the PM to request an extension. I would assume the underlying question that motivated this one is "can the UK PM comply with the letter of the law ordering him to request an extension while preventing said extension actually happening" Sep 11, 2019 at 13:22

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