EU agrees to delay Oct 31 Brexit date
London: European Union (EU) ambassadors meeting in Brussels on Friday agreed in principle to allow the UK to delay Brexit beyond October 31 but will announce the length of the extension only next week.
The EU's move is expected to have a strong bearing in the UK Parliament, which is likely to vote on British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's December 12 General Election demand early next week.
"What I can tell you is that the EU27 have agreed to the principle of an extension and work will continue in the coming days. The intention is to take this decision by written procedure," a European Commission spokesperson told reporters at the EU headquarters in Brussels. Johnson had formally requested the delay after being forced to by a law designed to prevent a no-deal Brexit if the House of Commons had failed to pass through a withdrawal agreement in time for October 31.
However, he has been insisting he does not want to delay the UK's departure beyond the month-end deadline, something that may now become an inevitability.
Most of the remaining 27 EU countries favour a three-month delay until January 2020, which is the amount of time specified in the so-called Benn Act that forced Johnson to request the extension.
However, there are reports of resistance from French President Emmanuel Macron, who favours a shorter extension until the middle or end of November, to reflect the EU's frustration with continued delay to Brexit.
On Thursday, Johnson offered MPs more time to debate his Brexit Bill but only if they agree to a General Election on December 12.
The way to get Brexit done is, I think, to be reasonable with Parliament and say if they genuinely want more time to study this excellent deal, they can have it, but they have to agree to a General Election on 12 December," said Johnson.
It's time frankly that the Opposition summoned up the nerve to submit themselves to the judgement of our collective boss, which is the people of the UK, he said.
Johnson had struck a renewed withdrawal agreement with the EU last week, which ditched the controversial Irish backstop clause, and went on in theory to find the backing of MPs in a vote 329 to 299 earlier this week.
But having lost the crucial fast-track timetable vote attached to it meant he lost out on his do or die pledge to get Brexit done by the end of October.
Under the UK's Fixed Term Parliament Act, he would require the Parliament's backing for an early election. And, given his lack of majority in Parliament, the prospect of such a bill passing through is not entirely certain.