Government admits Brexit could be delayed this week

British PM Boris Johnson
Afroze Fatima Zaidi

Brexit discussions have been taking place today as MPs question Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay on the government’s plans for agreeing a deal. The government was under pressure to get legal text agreed in time for the EU leaders summit on 17-18 October.

However, EU member states have now said it’s too late for any deal with Brussels to be formally approved at the summit.

Extension very likely

Discussions between Boris Johnson and the DUP haven’t resulted in an agreement. Irish PM Leo Varadkar, meanwhile, said:

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There is a pathway to a possible deal but there are many issues that still need to be fully resolved

Furthermore, Barclay confirmed that, if a deal isn’t agreed by 19 October, the PM will request an extension to the 31 October Brexit deadline.

Critics have previously questioned the sincerity of government pledges to request an extension in good faith.

2020 Brexit

In keeping with the Benn Act, Johnson must request a three-month extension if parliament doesn’t approve a Brexit deal or authorise no-deal by 19 October. The extension would push the negotiation period to 31 January 2020.

EU officials have warned that an extension is increasingly possible. An EU diplomat said:

Without a deal this week, Britain will need an extension. With a deal this week, Britain will need an extension.

According to a senior German official, agreeing a deal by 31 October will still not be enough to “resolve technical issues”. They said the negotiations will still require “some two months” more, pushing the Brexit deadline into January 2020.

Barclay insisted today that the PM will abide by the law and request an extension in keeping with the terms of the Benn Act. However, Johnson has repeatedly stated that he will push to leave the EU on 31 October, with or without a deal.

Meanwhile, at the end of September, the shadow chancellor called for an inquiry into claims that Johnson’s business backers might benefit from a no-deal Brexit.

Featured image via Wikimedia/ Annika Haas

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