European Union in no rush over Johnson's reluctant Brexit delay request

Cheryl Sanders
October 21, 2019

The fractious British Parliament refused to vote on Johnson's new Brexit withdrawal deal on Saturday, a move that forced him to seek a third postponement of Britain's departure from the bloc. BBC quoted No 10 as saying that the PM sent "Parliament's letter" to Brussels - unsigned - and accompanied it with a second letter - which was signed - explaining why the PM believed a delay would be a mistake.

If developments in the United Kingdom parliament start to make a no-deal Brexit at the end of the month look unavoidable, the European Union would be likely to step in, diplomats said. "We have the means and the ability to do so", he told Sky News television.

"But the PM has made the request for an extension he promised he wouldn't make, the European Union is considering that request, and the question whether the PM and Advocate General for Scotland are in contempt of court is one for the Inner House", he said.

Having failed to back a divorce deal, which Mr Johnson had secured on Thursday, MPs triggered a law requiring him to write to European Union leaders asking to delay Brexit, to avoid the risk that Britain crashes out in less than a fortnight's time. "The anger that is building among British voters is unlike anything we have seen before".

Adding to the sense that the content of the first letter bears little resemblance to what he believes (and indeed attests via his signature) Johnson writes that he "would have preferred a different result" in parliament and that numerous MPs who voted for the Letwin act actually support a deal, outlining his confidence that the United Kingdom can complete the process in time for the October 31 deadline.

That letter was sent because Parliament required it to be sent. but Parliament can't change the Prime Minister's mind; Parliament can't change the government's policy or determination.

Meanwhile, the Opposition Labour Party warned that Johnson could be in contempt of Parliament and possibly even the courts with his latest actions.

The Labour Party wants any deal to be contingent on a referendum and the United Kingdom to join the EU customs union.

Its chief Brexit official Keir Starmer told the UK's BBC: "The law is very clear".

"If we get the legislation through then there is no extension. If not, we remain". For hours, British lawmakers issued both ringing endorsements and scathing condemnations of Johnson's Brexit deal, only to kick any decision on it down the road by passing an amendment withholding approval for the deal until laws enabling it are passed.

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. That could take days, or even weeks.

French President Emmanuel Macron told Johnson that Paris needed swift clarification on the situation after Saturday's vote, an official at the French presidency told Reuters. Tusk said he had received the request from Johnson.

Mr Johnson, for whom delivering Brexit is key to his plan to hold an early election, said he was confident that the process of getting the Brexit legislation through Parliament would be completed before Oct 31, according to the letter.

The Court of Session in Scotland is already considering the matter, and it may end up being decided in the British Supreme Court, which in September ruled that Johnson had acted unlawfully when he suspended Parliament for five weeks as the Brexit deadline crept closer.

Scottish National Party legislator Joanna Cherry, part of a group that brought the earlier successful case against Johnson, said the legal battle over Brexit continues.

Lawyers for three anti-Brexit campaigners are expected to argue on Monday those steps are a clear breach of the government's promises to the court, made by lawyers acting on behalf of Lord Keen, the advocate general and the United Kingdom government's law officer for Scotland.

Other reports by iNewsToday