Brexit update: EU considers extension to October deadline

Brexit | | MIC Customs Solutions |

Brexit is in limbo once again after a sitting of British parliament this week, so let's take a look at where the situation is up to now.

The coming week was supposed to mark the final chapter in Britain's exit from the European Union, but uncertainty now reigns once again as to whether or not that will be the case.

British prime minister Boris Johnson succeeded in having his EU withdrawal bill backed by MPs in parliament just a few days ago, but this was swiftly followed by a defeat on the proposed three-week timetable for debating it.

As a result, Mr Johnson was forced by law to send a letter to Brussels requesting a three-month extension, even though this goes firmly against his own wishes.

Europe considers its next move

EU leaders are now considering whether a further extension will be granted. Meanwhile, there are rumours of a rift in government, with adviser Dominic Cummings reportedly calling for the abandonment of attempts to get the deal through and recommending that the nation go for a General Election instead.

However, Northern Ireland secretary Julian Smith is allegedly among the ministers arguing that it will still be possible to pass a bill ratifying the agreement, albeit with a new timetable.

In Europe, president of the European Council Donald Tusk has said he wants a 'flextension' until January 31st 2020, but French president Emmanuel Macron is taking a more hardline stance, arguing for the forcing of an emergency EU summit and claiming any delay should be no longer than 15 days.

This is said to have badly shocked Brussels, where it is feared such a decision would automatically result in a no-deal Brexit - but it may please Mr Johnson.

Meanwhile, Bulgarian prime minister Boyko Borissov has openly criticised the EU, saying in a television interview that the bloc will keep opting for an extension to prevent a no-deal Brexit without actually resolving the situation.

"[They will] write 'postpone', and 'postpone' and 'postpone', and we'll keep on like that for another 90 to 100 years," he commented.

Decision time

It is expected that Mr Tusk will make a decision tomorrow (October 25th 2019), whether that is to call a summit or to organise a delay. All 27 members must agree to an extension if this is going to be the case, whereupon January 31st 2020 would be set as the new Brexit deadline.

Should the EU propose a date other than this, the prime minister is required by law to accept it unless a motion is put before MPs and they reject it.

Were no delay granted, the UK would automatically exit the EU on October 31st 2019 at 23:00 GMT, and also leave the customs union and single market designed to facilitate trade.

For his part, Mr Johnson is still holding out hope for a deal, saying that this would ensure "the union is preserved and we are able to go forward together as one United Kingdom and do free trade deals that have been impossible under previous deals".

However, this is no looking all but impossible, with Mr Johnson either having to accept any extension handed out, or push for a no-deal instead.

The only alternatives are to press for an election - which would require the backing of two-thirds of MPs - or to cancel Brexit altogether by revoking Article 50, something the Liberal Democrats say they would prefer but has not even been suggested by the current government.

At present, everything rests on Mr Tusk's ruling in Europe. Perhaps by next week, as the original Brexit deadline approaches, it will be possible to see more clearly what is likely to happen and if Britain is to finally get its divorce from the continental bloc.