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EU extends Brexit deadline to January 31

Boris Johnson will respond to the EU’s delay offer once he has reviewed the details, said an official

By Reuters in London and Brussels

  • Published 29.10.19, 1:18 AM
  • Updated 29.10.19, 1:18 AM
Anti-brexit demonstrators outside Parliament in London on Monday
Anti-brexit demonstrators outside Parliament in London on Monday (AP)

The EU agreed a three-month flexible delay on Monday to Britain’s departure from the bloc as Prime Minister Boris Johnson pushes for an election after opponents forced him to request an extension he had vowed never to ask for.

Just days before the UK is formally due to leave the EU on October 31 at 2300 GMT, Brexit is hanging in the balance, with British politicians no closer to reaching a consensus on how, when or even if the divorce should take place.

Johnson, who became Prime Minister in July by pledging, “do or die”, to deliver Brexit on October 31, was compelled to request a postponement after he was defeated in Parliament over the sequencing of the ratification of his divorce deal.

The 27 countries that will remain in the EU agreed on Monday to put off Brexit until the end of January with an earlier departure possible should the faction-ridden UK Parliament ratify the separation deal Johnson agreed with the bloc.

“The EU27 has agreed that it will accept the UK’s request for a Brexit ‘flextension” until 31 January 2020,” European Council President Donald Tusk said in a tweet, referring to the concept of a flexible extension.

EU member states will need Britain to formally reply to its offer of a three-month delay before launching a “written procedure” whereby governments will have 24 hours to accept or reject.

“We can only launch the written procedure when we have the agreement of the UK government on the text,” a senior EU official said. Johnson is obliged by legislation passed by parliament last month to accept an extension once offered.

Johnson will respond to the EU’s delay offer once he has reviewed the details, his spokesman said on Monday.

Two senior EU diplomats confirmed that the written procedure period agreed was 24 hours, effective from the time London accepts the offer of a Brexit delay from October 31 to January 31.

Britain’s departure has already been delayed twice — from March 29 and April 12 —after Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, failed three times to get her deal ratified by parliament.

With British politics still paralysed over carrying out Brexit three-and-a-half years after a 52 per cent-48 per cent referendum vote in favour of leaving the EU, Johnson is demanding Parliament approve an election on December 12 in return for more time to adopt his deal.

But he needs the support of two-thirds, or 434, of the 650 lawmakers for a new election. A House of Commons vote was due later on Monday.

The EU, forged from the ruins of World War II as a way to prevent another devastating conflict in Europe, is fatigued by Britain’s Brexit crisis.