September 28, 2021

EU may approve a delay to Brexit even if Boris Johnson doesn’t ask for one

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If Boris Johnson’s Brexit blueprint fails the EU ‘could approve a three-month delay even if Boris Johnson REFUSES to ask for one’

  • Rebels passed anti-No Deal law forcing PM to seek a delay if he cannot get a deal
  • But Johnson has suggested he would rather break the law that delay Brexit again
  • EU sources suggested that he might not have to ask for an extension personally 
  • They raised the prospect of a senior civil servant doing it instead 

By David Wilcock, Whitehall Correspondent For Mailonline

Published: 05:23 EDT, 3 October 2019 | Updated: 13:46 EDT, 3 October 2019

EU leaders are ready to outflank Boris Johnson and approve a three-month delay to Brexit later this month even if the Prime Minister refuses to ask for one.

Under rebel anti-No Deal legislation passed last month the PM has to go to a Brussels summit in three weeks and beg for an extension until January if the two sides have not agreed a deal by then.  

But Mr Johnson has so far said he will not do so, amid suggestions he might not attend the October 17-18 emergency session with other European leaders.

Last night it was suggested that the letter asking for a Brexit delay might not have to be signed by Mr Johnson, and could be done by ‘the head of government or head of state’, according to the Times. 

An EU source told the paper: ‘We don’t care who it is, whether it is the prime minister or another representative of the executive.

Under rebel anti-No Deal legislation passed last month the PM has to go to a Brussels summit in three weeks and beg for an extension until January if the two sides have not agreed a deal

One of the names being circulated as a potential alternative was Sir Mark Sedwill, the head of the civil service (pictured)

‘What Article 50 says and requires is that the extension is agreed with the UK. 

‘Strictly speaking it is silent on whether there should be a request or where the request should come from.’

The paper was told it could be done by Sir Mark Sedwill, the head of the civil service, or ambassador to the EU Sir Tim Barrow. 

Mr Johnson has gathered his Cabinet for crisis talks today after he finally put together a Commons majority for a Brexit deal – but the EU looks set to reject it.

The PM and his senior team are taking stock after the UK’s plans were dramatically unveiled – winning broad support from the DUP, Tory hardliners and some Labour MPs.

However, EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker gave a cool response, welcoming ‘positive advances’, but saying some of the ideas were ‘problematic’. Irish premier Leo Varadkar cautioned that it did not ‘meet all the objectives’ of the previous backstop.

Sir Tim Barrow, the EU ambassador to the EU, was another person it was suggested could formally ask the EU for a three-month Brexit delay if Mr Johnson refuses

EU negotiator Michel Barnier, regarded by the UK as the biggest obstacle to a deal, pointed out that the EU will have guaranteed not to enforce a hard border, even if the arrangements collapse.

‘The EU would then be trapped with no backstop to preserve the single market after Brexit,’ he is said to have briefed officials privately.

The next 48 hours will be critical, as No10 has warned talks could be abandoned altogether if the EU does not agree to use the draft text as the basis for intensive negotiations.

Aides have even threatened that Mr Johnson – who is set to run the gauntlet in the House of Commons later – will boycott a crunch summit on October 17, throwing the process into chaos.

The UK proposals would involve Northern Ireland following EU regulations, but staying outside the bloc’s customs union and aligned to the rest of the UK.

Controversially, that will mean customs checks on the island of Ireland, although the government insists those can be minimised by using technology and carrying them out at trade premises.   

A revived Stormont Assembly would also have to sign off on keeping the arrangements every four years.

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