Brussels ambassadors have agreed that an extension to Britain’s membership of the EU is needed, but a decision on the length will not be made until next week.
The EU 27 accepted the “principle of an extension” and their work will continue in the “coming days”, a European Commission spokeswoman said.
Boris Johnson was forced by parliament to request a Brexit delay until January 31, and chancellor Sajid Javid conceded on 25 October that the Halloween deadline had now slipped away.
It follows the prime minister’s offer to MPs of more time to consider his Brexit deal if they agreed to an election on December 12.
Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn has said that – if a January extension is granted – he would support an election provided Johnson makes it “absolutely clear” the UK would not crash out of the bloc.
“I’ve said all along – take no deal off the table, and we’ll have the election,” he told ITV’s This Morning.
There are concerns in Whitehall that if ministers cannot get the Withdrawal Agreement Bill through now, they will be facing the prospect of yet another extension beyond January 31, with the possibility MPs could again take control of the Commons timetable to pass a “Benn Act 2”.
Following the meeting of EU ambassadors on Friday, the European Commission’s chief spokeswoman Mina Andreeva told a Brussels press briefing: “The EU 27 have agreed to the principle of an extension and work will now continue in the coming days.”
She said their intention was to take the decision by a written procedure, reducing the likelihood of an emergency EU summit next week – just days before Britain is currently due to leave.
An EU source said the ambassadors’ meeting was constructive and there was “full agreement” on the need for an extension. They are expected to meet again early next week to finalise an agreement.
With the Budget scheduled for November 6 having already been cancelled, Javid suggested ministers would put other government business on hold until the issue was resolved.
“The Opposition have said, week after week, that if there is a delay of three months, which is what they requested through parliament, then they will vote for a general election, so let’s see if they keep their word,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
“And if they don’t then we will keep bringing back to parliament a motion to have an election – and we will keep doing that again and again.
“As for other parliamentary business, we’ll have to wait and see what that is, and we will react to it at that time.”
Javid said that if Labour MPs do not trust the government, they should agree to a general election.
The prime minister was forced by parliament to write to Brussels requesting the delay after failing to win approval for his deal at last weekend’s special Saturday sitting.
However, many MPs say his proposed election timetable – which would require them to complete the ratification of his deal by November 6 when parliament would be dissolved for his proposed election – still does not allow time for proper scrutiny.
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