The EU-27 member states have been very carefully observing the UK domestic political manoeuvering and posturing this year. The predominant view in the EU-27 is that a managed “deal” scenario is far more preferable to a potentially chaotic “no-deal”. At the same time, precautions have been taken to prepare for a “no-deal” scenario. The EU-27 are not willing to renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement for fear of neverending negotiations with the UK. They have instead pointed to further clarifications and changes to the Political Declaration.
The 10 April 2019 EU Summit meeting was contentious – in light of the unclear UK position, a group of moderate voices (including Germany and Ireland) were seeking a longer extension period (of 12 or more months), while other countries, such as France, were advocating for a much shorter extension. Various member states clearly questioned why the EU-27 should provide yet another extension in light of the lack of constructive developments in the UK, and thereby, also take on political and legal risk related to the upcoming EU elections taking place between 23 and 26 May. Some of the critical voices even expressed doubts whether the UK would act in good faith during a lengthy Brexit delay, as critical decisions about the future of the EU need to be taken in the coming months (e.g. regarding the EU budget 2021-2027 or the selection of a new EU Commission President).
Despite such concerns, the fear of being blamed for a hard Brexit scenario led EU-27 leaders to agree on yet another Brexit extension until 31 October 2019. Thus, the moderate voices, led by German Chancellor Merkel, ultimately prevailed with their desire to again aim for a managed “soft” Brexit in light of the negative consequences a hard Brexit would entail for all parties involved.