EU says UK can have Brexit delay, but delays decision on length

Member states in agreement there is need for extension but a decision on its length will be made next week.

    EU-supporters have been gathering in the rain outside the Houses of Parliament, along with anti-EU protesters [Toby Melville/Reuters]
    EU-supporters have been gathering in the rain outside the Houses of Parliament, along with anti-EU protesters [Toby Melville/Reuters]

    European Union members have agreed "in principle" to granting the United Kingdom's request for another extension to the Brexit deadline, an official has said, but the bloc delayed its decision on its length until next week.

    Speaking on Friday after EU ambassadors met the EU Brexit chief negotiator Michel Barnier, European Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said the envoys "agreed to the principle of an extension" and their work will "continue in the coming days".

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    There are currently no plans for an emergency leaders' summit to resolve the issue, she added.

    The UK is due to leave the 28-nation bloc on October 31 but has asked for a three-month extension to that deadline as Prime Minister Boris Johnson struggles to get legislators to pass his Brexit divorce deal with EU.

    On Monday, he will once again ask parliamentarians for a snap election, which he wants held on December 12.

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    Johnson needs the support of two-thirds of MPs, which has been withheld in his two previous attempts to go to the polls. The main opposition Labour Party is thought likely to abstain from Monday's vote, though some of its MPs could rebel against party leadership and side with the government.

    If Johnson does fail to secure an early election, as many expect, he will push ahead with plans to leave the EU and with his domestic agenda, a spokesman said on Friday, contradicting statements made on Thursday evening that his Conservative government would essentially go on strike and refuse to bring any business to Parliament while MPs rejected an election.

    "At the moment it is up to the EU, as you know, to decide whether or not they are going to give us an extension. As things stand we can leave on October 31," Johnson said.

    "We should be leaving on October 31."

    Johnson said that if Labour opposed a December 12 general election, his government would not engage in "pointless Brexitology".

    Why not December?

    The Labour Party is reportedly concerned that agreeing to a December 12 election could still leave the UK at risk of leaving the EU without a divorce deal.

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    If the election is agreed for that date, it is most likely that Parliament will be dissolved on November 6.

    If a Brexit deal is not agreed by then - and handing Johnson such a victory on the eve of an election would seem an unlikely move for any opposition party - the practical scheduling means MPs may not take their seats in the new Parliament until the new calendar year.

    With procedural debates around another ceremonial state opening, another Queen's Speech and another legislative agenda, among others, some fear the deadline for three-month "Brextension" expected to be granted by the EU next week will once again loom without serious legislative debate over the 100-plus pages, as well as any amendments, of the Brexit deal text and the future constitutional implications for the UK.

    Labour has said it would back an election once a "no-deal" withdrawal from the EU was firmly off the table.

    Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of pounds' worth of commemorative Brexit coins will not yet enter circulation, a Treasury source told The Daily Telegraph. The special 50 pence coins, minted with the words "Peace, prosperity and friendship with all nations - October 31 2019" were intended to be collectors' items, but have now been shelved.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies