Queen green lights law to delay Brexit

Tough talks: Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, left, with his British counterpart Boris Johnson in Dublin on Monday.

Tough talks: Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, left, with his British counterpart Boris Johnson in Dublin on Monday.   | Photo Credit: AFP

It requires PM to delay Brexit to 2020 unless he gets a deal; Parliament also likely to reject his snap poll plans

A Bill demanding that Prime Minister Boris Johnson delay Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union on October 31 if he cannot get a divorce deal became law on Monday but his office insisted that Brexit would happen by that date, “no ifs and buts”.

Parliament was also likely to reject Mr. Johnson’s call on Monday for a snap general election, which he is seeking in order to break a deadlock over Brexit that has intensified since he took office in July pledging to get on with the departure.

“The Prime Minister is very clear that he will take this country out of the EU on October 31st no ifs or buts, he will not sanction any more pointless delays,” Mr. Johnson’s office said after the Bill became law.

Mr. Johnson was due to suspend Parliament for over a month from Monday after it votes on his latest demand for a snap election. He had set up the suspension — called a prorogation — last month in what opponents cast as an attempt to sideline lawmakers over Brexit.

The departure from the EU, the United Kingdom’s most significant geopolitical move in decades, remains in question more than three years since the 2016 referendum, with possible outcomes ranging from a no-deal exit to abandoning the whole endeavour.

An alliance of opposition lawmakers and rebels from Mr. Johnson’s own Conservative Party passed the Bill that became law on Monday having received the assent of Queen Elizabeth.

The law, which seeks to block a no-deal exit, will force Mr. Johnson to seek a three-month extension to the October 31 deadline unless Parliament has either approved a deal or consented by October 19 to leave without one.

It was unclear what Mr. Johnson’s next move would be: while the law will oblige him to seek a delay unless he can strike a new deal, EU leaders have repeatedly said they have received no specific proposals.

“I’m absolutely undaunted by whatever may take place in parliament,” Mr. Johnson said in Dublin.

“We must get Brexit done because the U.K. must come out on October 31, or else I fear that permanent damage will be done to confidence in our democracy in the UK,” Mr. Johnson said.

House of Commons Speaker John Bercow, who played a key role in the Brexit crisis, took a veiled swipe at Mr. Johnson as he announced on Monday he would stand down from the role.

Irish border

Ireland told Mr. Johnson on Monday that he must make specific proposals on the future of the Irish border if there is to be any hope of averting a no-deal Brexit, saying Dublin cannot rely on simple promises.

“In the absence of agreed alternative arrangements, no backstop is no deal for us,” Mr. Varadkar told reporters.

“We are open to alternatives, but they must realistic ones, legally binding and workable and we haven’t received such proposals to date.”

The blunt remarks by Mr. Varadkar indicate the difficulty of Mr. Johnson’s gamble of using the threat of a no-deal exit to convince Germany and France that they must rewrite an exit agreement struck last November.

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Printable version | Apr 7, 2020 6:16:59 PM |

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