Read: In a bid to ‘take back control,’ Britain lost it
When I spoke with Lambert at the end of March, Britain was already clearly heading for a short extension to its original exit date from the EU, with the potential for an even longer one. Still, as far as Lambert and her colleagues were concerned, their last day was imminent. Boxes were packed. Offices and apartments were cleared. Some parliamentary staff had already been made redundant.
“We’re assuming that we’re leaving,” Lambert told me by phone from Brussels. “But we’re also having to think about … if we don’t.” She described this state of limbo as “difficult” and “high stress.”
“We’ve got ongoing work, because of course the Parliament doesn’t stop just because the British are in total chaos.”
There is still the very real possibility that Britain, nearly three years after voting to leave the EU, would be compelled to take part in next month’s European Parliament elections. Whether the country ultimately does will depend on whether the British government asks the EU for a longer delay to its withdrawal date—until the end of June or later—so that it can find a new consensus for Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal, hold a general election, or even organize another referendum. On Tuesday, May announced that she would seek a further extension beyond April 12 to give Parliament more time to reach a consensus, and even offered to hold cross-party talks with opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn to overcome the impasse. Though the prime minister said she wants the extension to be “as short as possible” so that the U.K. can avoid the EU elections, the length of the delay will ultimately be decided by EU leaders.
Such an extension isn’t even guaranteed (all 27 remaining EU member states would have to agree to it). But one thing is certain: For legal and political reasons, Brussels will not allow the U.K. to stay in the bloc beyond April 12 without ensuring that Britain takes part in the elections, both so that Britons are represented at the parliamentary level, and to allow European Union nationals to participate.
Regardless of whether that happens, Lambert said she won’t try for reelection. But that doesn’t mean her party isn’t preparing a list of candidates to replace her if the time comes. “We’re still running through the process,” she said of the Greens, which campaigned to remain in the EU during the 2016 referendum. “If the election is there, we are very happy to stand.”
They aren’t alone. Margot Parker, a U.K. Independence Party member of the European Parliament, told me that her Euroskeptic party is also making preparations for a last-minute contest, albeit begrudgingly. “I went [to the European Parliament] to be a voice of those people who are Euroskeptic,” said Parker, whose East Midlands region voted overwhelmingly to leave the EU during the 2016 referendum. “I would put my name down because if we have to go back [then] the job isn’t done, and I have to represent the people who actually really want somebody who will represent them.”