Boris Johnson asks EU for Brexit delay, but hopes he won’t need it

Bound by a law passed by opposition Members of Parliament, he formally asked the European Union to delay Brexit until Jan. 31, European Council President Donald Tusk said in a tweet.
The government sent three letters in total to the EU -- the Benn Act extension, as stipulated in law, but which the PM didn’t personally sign.(REUTERS)
The government sent three letters in total to the EU -- the Benn Act extension, as stipulated in law, but which the PM didn’t personally sign.(REUTERS)
Updated on Oct 20, 2019 06:41 AM IST
Copy Link
Bloomberg | ByTim Ross in Brussels

Boris Johnson sent the letter to Brussels he never wanted to write.

Bound by a law passed by opposition Members of Parliament, he formally asked the European Union to delay Brexit until Jan. 31, European Council President Donald Tusk said in a tweet. Tusk will start consulting EU leaders on how to react, which may take a few days. A unanimous vote is required to grant an extension.

According to a Downing Street official, the government sent three letters in total to the EU -- the Benn Act extension, as stipulated in law, but which the PM didn’t personally sign; a cover note from Tim Barrow, Britain’s envoy to the EU; and a letter signed by the PM arguing that further delay is a mistake. Johnson also pledged to Parliament his desire to push on with plans to leave the bloc by his Oct. 31 deadline.

After Saturday’s defeat in Parliament, Johnson never got his chance to see if MPs would support the deal he brought back from Brussels. He now plans to push through the legislation in less than two weeks. The Withdrawal Agreement Bill could begin its journey as soon as Tuesday, after Johnson makes another attempt on Monday to get Parliament to sign off on the principle of his deal, making the extension unnecessary.

After 3 1/2 years of political turmoil triggered by the referendum, Britain’s departure from the bloc is still not completely baked in. Hundreds of thousands of pro-EU demonstrators gathered around Westminster while MPs were debating in the House of Commons.

Possible outcomes range from delaying Brexit -- allowing time for a general election or a second referendum on leaving -- to a battle in court, or a chaotic and economically damaging departure from the bloc without a deal. But if Johnson succeeds with his latest gambit, he’ll be able to meet his month-end deadline and push for an election.

Based on how MPs voted Saturday -- the government lost by 16 -- and their comments during the debate, Johnson might still have a chance. It could come down to a single vote.

Johnson’s key problem could lie in wooing back his allies in the Democratic Unionist Party. Their 10 votes made the difference between defeat and victory.

They had supported Johnson until this week, when he signed a Brexit deal that creates a customs border in the Irish Sea -- a concession designed to secure Ireland and the EU’s support for the agreement. The DUP angrily denounced that during the debate.

The day saw Conservative MPs, both current and almost all those he expelled last month, saying they would vote with him, as well as a small number of Labour MPs. If he can hold that coalition together for two weeks, he might have a chance.

Hours after the vote, French President Emmanuel Macron made it clear the deal had been negotiated and that further delay in Britain’s departure was “in no one’s interest.”

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close Story
QUICKREADS

Less time to read?

Try Quickreads

  • Anthony Albanese, leader of Australia's Labor Party, addresses supporters after incumbent Prime Minister and Liberal Party leader Scott Morrison conceded defeat in the country's general election, in Sydney, Australia on Saturday. 

    Who is Anthony Albanese? Facts about Australia's Prime Minister-elect

    Anthony Albanese is all set to become the Australian Prime Minister after his Labor party toppled the Conservative government, after almost a decade in power, in the general elections held over the weekend. He has described himself as the only candidate with a “non-Anglo Celtic name” to run for prime minister in the 121 years that the office has existed. He is still widely known by his childhood nickname Albo.

  • Higher National Diploma (HND) students take part in a demonstration demanding the resignation of Sri Lanka's President Gotabaya Rajapaksa over the country's crippling economic crisis, in Colombo on May 21, 2022. (Photo by ISHARA S. KODIKARA / AFP)

    In crisis-hit Sri Lanka, state of emergency lifted: 5 key developments

    Embattled President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had announced a state of emergency with effect from May 6 midnight, almost a month after imposing the first phase, on April 1. Citing an improvement in the law and order situation, the Presidential Secretariat announced emergency had been lifted with effect from Friday midnight, local media reported. Under the state of emergency, police and security forces had sweeping powers to arbitrarily arrest and detain people.

  • Besides participating in the third Quad Leaders Summit, Prime Minister Modi will have bilateral meetings with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and US President Joe Biden in Tokyo. (HT FILE PHOTO.)

    Quad Summit to focus on key challenges, ways to keep Indo-Pacific free and open

    The Quad Leaders Summit in Tokyo next week will discuss challenges and opportunities across the Indo-Pacific and focus on ways to deliver on the vision of a free, open and inclusive region, foreign secretary Vinay Kwatra said on Saturday.

  • Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison leaves a polling station after casting his vote during the Australian general election in Sydney.

    Australia PM Scott Morrison loses national elections, labor party to take power

    Australia's Labor Party is set to take power for the first time since 2013, as voters booted out Prime Minister Scott Morrison's conservative government in a shift likely to bring greater action on climate change, women's issues and anti-corruption efforts. The Australian Broadcasting Commission said Labor won at least 72 seats, compared with 52 for Morrison's Liberal-National Coalition, with independents and third parties taking the rest. It wasn't all good news for Labor.

  • Shireen Mazari, Pakistan’s former minister for human rights (File Photo)

    Ex-Pak minister Shireen Mazari arrested; kin, party say PTI leader ‘kidnapped’

    According to a <strong>report</strong> in the former miShireen Mazari, Dawn, Pakistan's former minister of human rights in the Imran Khan government which was ousted last monthstody of the Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE). “Male police officers have beaten and taken my mother away. All I have been told is that Anti Corruption Wing Lahore has taken her,” tweeted Imaan Zainab Mazari-Hazir, Mazari's daughter.

SHARE
Story Saved
×
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Sunday, May 22, 2022