The European Union leaders have agreed to extend the UK departure date until 31 January 2020, indirectly acknowledging that the British government will not meet the foreseen deadline on October 31.
The president of the EU Council Donald Tusk assessed the delay as “flextension“, underlining that there is no need to keep membership in the block until the date, but Britons could leave anytime before the date as soon as the Withdrawal Agreement was approved by Westminster.
The new Brexit delay has been announced amid MPs intend to vote on proposals by Prime Minister Boris Johnson for an early general election on December 12.
The Scottish National Party (SNP) and Liberal Democrat’s (Lib/Dem) have also proposed an election a few days earlier – on December 9.
The UK was due to leave the EU on October 31, but PM Johnson was required to request an extension after Westminster failed to agree a Withdrawal Agreement.
Boris Johnson had repeatedly stated the UK would leave on 31 October meeting the deadline regardless the Withdrawal Agreement, but the law – known as the Benn Act – imposes to accept the EU’s extension proposal in absence of the Brexit deal.
The Downing Street source said to the BBC that the government would introduce a bill “almost identical” to the Lib Dem/SNP option on October 29 if Labour voted their proposal down later, and “we will have a pre-Christmas election anyway”.
The European Union has agreed to the UK request for a Brexit deadline extension but set no new exact date, offering to Westminster sufficient time to decide on Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s proposal for a snap election. (Image above: Michel Barnier, archive)
“There was full agreement on the need for an extension,” an EU official said after ambassadors discussed postponing the deadline, less than a week before the agreed date of October 31.
“Work will continue over the weekend” and the envoys will meet again in Brussels on October 28-29, the civil servant said.