The withdrawal agreement stipulates that the UK government or the EU have the option, before but not after 1 July 2020, to ask for an extension of the transition period for one or two years. This is different from how previous (article 50) extensions to avoid a no-deal Brexit worked.

"At a private meeting with EU27 diplomats this week, EU lawyers said there could be no extension after 1 July 2020." -- the Guardian

Where did the withdrawal agreement extension mechanism come from? Was it the UK or the EU that wanted it this way or was it some sort of compromise?

  • What happened to no more extensions?
    – Jontia
    Dec 21, 2019 at 15:47
  • @Jontia fixed now I hope
    – hkBst
    Dec 21, 2019 at 18:16

1 Answer 1


It comes from article 132, section 1 of the Withdrawal Agreement (WA), which states that:

Notwithstanding Article 126, the Joint Committee may, before 1 July 2020, adopt a single decision extending the transition period for up to 1 or 2 years.

(Article 126 states that the implementation period ends on 31 Dec 2020.)

However, the new European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill 2019-20 (WAB) states, in clause 33, that:

A Minister of the Crown may not agree in the Joint Committee to an extension of the implementation period.

(Note that this clause was not present in the version of the WAB which started (but failed to complete) its passage through Parliament before the 2019 election.)

This can't be sidestepped by the government sending an official or other representative instead of a minister, because clause 34 specifies that only a Minister of the Crown can be the UK's co-chair of the committee.

Because "The Joint Committee shall adopt its decisions and make its recommendations by mutual consent" (article 166, section 3), this seems to imply that if a co-chair objects to a proposal, that is as good as a veto.

So in other words: what the WA gives, the WAB takes away.

  • But why does the WA give this particular form of extension mechanism?
    – hkBst
    Dec 21, 2019 at 18:11
  • Unless there was any commentary at the time this was being negotiated, we can only speculate. My guess would be that it allows the implementation period to be extended if both sides think that extra time would be helpful - but prevents multiple or indefinite extensions, to ensure that the implementation period will end. Dec 21, 2019 at 22:02

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