UK PM seeks another Brexit delay in letter to EU

Elias Hubbard
October 20, 2019

A defiant Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would not negotiate a further delay to Britain's departure from the European Union after losing a vote in parliament on Saturday that means he is obliged to request a postponement.

The government source said Johnson sent a total of three letters to Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council: a photocopy of the text that the law, known as the Benn Act, forced him to write; a cover note from Britain's EU envoy; and a third letter in which he said he did not want an extension.

European Union ambassadors are due to meet early on Sunday (Oct 20) to discuss a formal request by London to delay Brexit beyond the current Oct 31 deadline, after the British Parliament postponed a key vote on the withdrawal deal that was agreed last week.

Johnson sent an unsigned letter to the European Union late Saturday seeking a delay to Britain's impending October 31 departure from the bloc, as required by British law.

Parliament's first weekend sitting since the Falklands War of 1982 had been dubbed "Super Saturday".

Starmer said on Sunday that his party would put forward amendments to Johnson's Brexit deal legislation, particularly aimed at closing the "trap door" to no-deal Brexit at the end of a transition period in December 2020.

Johnson's Conservative party has only 233 seats in the 650-seat House of Commons, so he needs the support of at least some opposition lawmakers. It would make support for the deal conditional on the legislation to implement it being passed by Parliament, something that could take several days or weeks.

Johnson has promised a hard Brexit if Parliament doesn't pass his plan, but economists say a no-deal breakup would plunge the UK's economy into recession.

Even if he is given an extension he doesn't want by the EU, Johnson could still take the country out of the bloc on October 31 because the law allows him to if he can get all the legislation approved by that date.

The SNP's Westminster leader Ian Blackford said today "there is a clear case that [Mr Johnson] is in contempt of Parliament". Protesters, many wearing blue berets emblazoned with yellow stars symbolizing the European Union flag, poured out of subways and buses for the last-ditch effort.

Scottish Conservative MP Luke Graham said he was "cautiously optimistic" that Boris Johnson's deal would be passed in the Commons next week and he insisted the prime minister had complied with the law.

A third letter written by Britain's European Union ambassador Tim Barrow explained that the Brexit delay letter was only being sent to comply with the law.

"It will be for the United Kingdom government to inform us about the next steps as soon as possible", EU Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva tweeted.

Brussels urged Britain to explain its plan as soon as possible, while President Macron's office said a new delay to Brexit was "in nobody's interest". For EU leaders, avoiding a chaotic, no-deal Brexit should be the "top priority", he said in a tweet.

If Parliament approves the Withdrawal Agreement Bill in time, Britain could still leave by the end of October.

Letwin said he hoped Johnson's deal would succeed, but he wanted "an insurance policy which prevents the United Kingdom from crashing out on 31 October by mistake if something goes wrong during the passage of the implementing legislation". Parliament rejected her deal three times, by margins of between 58 and 230 votes, earlier this year.

Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn welcomed the "emphatic decision" from MPs.

His hopes of getting the deal through Parliament were dealt a blow when his Northern Ireland ally, the Democratic Unionist Party, said it would not back him.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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