UK's Johnson asks for a Brexit delay that he doesn't want

Marco Green
October 21, 2019

Mr. Johnson needs more than fellow Tories to get the deal through parliament. Bound by a law he opposed, Johnson formally asked the European Union to delay Brexit until January 31. The government has vowed to press ahead with the legislation - the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) - to implement the Brexit deal next week.

The formal granting or denial of an extension by the bloc may not be made until the Brexit deadline is just days away, but most signs indicate the European Union would prefer an extension to an abrupt United Kingdom departure from the bloc without a deal in place.

"[Mr Johnson] can no longer use the threat of a no-deal crash-out to blackmail MPs to support his sell-out deal", the Labour leader said after the vote. Tusk said he had received the request from Johnson.

Among the crowd was Star Trek actor Sir Patrick Stewart, and cheers erupted when the crowd heard Mr Johnson had lost the vote.

Rather than writing one letter to the European Union, Johnson has sent three - nearly.

Q&A What does the "Benn act" say? After this, it adds that "if the parties are able to ratify before this date, the government proposes that the period should be terminated early".

Fearing he might find a way to circumvent this, campaigners sought to provide a "safety net" by asking Scotland's highest court to use "nobile officium" powers to write a letter on the prime minister's behalf if he failed to do so.

At this stage, the only way a no-deal Brexit can still happen by 31 October is if there is no unanimous approval among EU27 members on the decision.

Johnson's letters came after another tumultuous day in the House of Commons, which worked in a Saturday session for only the first time since the Falklands War in 1982.

Over the weekend, UK Prime Minister Johnson's attempt to get parliamentary approval for his Brexit deal fell flat - not because of inadequate support for his bill, but because of an earlier amendment put forward by Sir Letwin, created to avoid any meaningful vote on the bill until details of implementation had been finalized.

Johnson's choice of words here is instructive. It is parliament that has "missed the opportunity to inject momentum into the ratification process for the new withdrawal agreement", effectively forcing his hand to request an extension. Monday will feature more legal action, more arm-twisting, cajoling and veiled threats by Johnson and his ministers and more amendments designed by lawmakers to stymie Johnson's plan to have Britain leave the 28-nation bloc on October 31. No rush, in other words. Taken together, these three letters send diametrically opposed messages to both the European Union and the UK.

Mr Johnson's former allies in the DUP are implacably opposed.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said he believes Johnson has enough support to get his deal through Parliament, but added the government would keep talking with its Northern Ireland ally, the Democratic Unionist Party, to persuade it to back the deal. This is a major U-turn for Johnson, who has repeatedly stressed that he would never seek a Brexit delay and promised to take United Kingdom out of the bloc. "The question of whether the prime minister is in contempt of court - as many commentators have argued - is really one for it". He now appears perilously close to another clash.

The Court of Session will be asked to decide whether this broke a promise not to "frustrate" the so-called Benn Act. This is known as the Padfield principle.

"The breakdown of votes on the Letwin Amendment has shown that there is a theoretical majority in favour of the new deal".

MPs now face a busy time.

The Labour main opposition has lambasted Johnson's deal as a "sell-out" and voted for the delay.

Will Super Sunday convert to Magic Monday?

MPs voted by 322 to 306 to pass the so-called Letwin amendment to the government's Brexit deal, inflicting a blow on the prime minister's strategy, according to the BBC.

"There's been a lot of political chicanery by the other side because we've got a parliament that wants to remain and we've got a people that wants to leave".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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