EU leaders continue considering Brexit extension as Boris Johnson threatens snap election
24 October 2019, 08:42
EU leaders will continue to consider whether to grant the EU another Brexit extension with just a week to go before October 31.
Boris Johnson has objected against any lengthy delay and warned he will push for a snap general election if Brexit is pushed into the new year.
Any decision is likely to wait until Friday when leaders are expected to make their decision on whether, and for how long, there should be another Brexit delay.
It is widely thought they will agree a so-called "flextension" to the end of January, with the option for the UK to leave before then if there is agreement in Parliament on a deal.
If leaders cannot come to an agreement it could mean there will have to be an EU emergency summit, probably on Monday, just three days before the UK is currently due to leave.
The @Europarl_EN's Brexit Steering Group met today & is of the opinion that a flextension, not going beyond the 31st Jan, is the only way forward. This is an important agreement & the European Parliament needs time to scrutinise in detail, especially concerning citizens rights.— Guy Verhofstadt (@guyverhofstadt) October 23, 2019
A shorter extension would be a boost to Mr Johnson who has told outgoing European Council president Donald Tusk that he does not want any further delay.
Meanwhile, a rift has appeared between ministers and senior No 10 advisers over whether to press for a December poll.
Dominic Cummings, Mr Johnson's chief adviser, is reportedly leading calls to abandon attempts to get the Prime Minister's Brexit deal through Parliament and go for an election.
But Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith is said to be among ministers arguing it is still possible to pass a bill ratifying the agreement, despite Tuesday's defeat for Mr Johnson's attempt to fast-track it through the Commons.
Even if the PM does decide to press for an early election there is no guarantee that he will succeed.
.@sajidjavid insists that the Government can still get Brexit done by 31st October.— Peston (@itvpeston) October 23, 2019
“If that means we have to sit Friday, Saturday, Sunday - sit every hour of the day - that’s what we need to do to deliver on the 31st ” #Peston pic.twitter.com/xuaeHHLBlk
Under the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act he would need a "super majority" of two-thirds of all MPs to call an election, which would require Labour support.
There are fears among Conservatives that if there is an election before the UK has left the EU, it will play into the hands of Nigel Farage's Brexit Party.
Jeremy Corbyn has said Labour is ready to go to the country once it is sure Mr Johnson cannot "crash out" in a no-deal Brexit in the middle of a campaign.
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell, however, said Labour is prepared for an election before Christmas "if necessary."
"We're hoping, step by step, hoping we can get some agreement with the government ... If we can't we're up for an election for whenever it comes, and we're confident..." he told ITV's Peston programme.
But that stance appears to be at odds with the fact there is widespread opposition to an election among the party's MPs at a time when they are trailing in the polls.
Meanwhile, Chancellor Sajid Javid told Peston that the Government was "on track" to deliver a budget on November 6, contradicting information given by a spokesman for Number 10.
Mr Javid said: "The budget's on track, and as I said at the time when I announced the date, November the 6th, the only situation there won't be a budget is if there was actually a no deal outcome."