Brexit update: EU agrees to extension as UK election looms


The European Union agreed to grant the UK a three-month Brexit delay to January 31, removing the risk of a damaging no-deal split on Thursday as the British government tries to end the impasse in Parliament.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is pushing a vote in the House of Commons on Monday to trigger an early general election, saying it’s the only way to resolve the deadlock that has stopped the UK ratifying the divorce deal with Brussels and prolonged the uncertainty for businesses as Brexit drags on.

Key Developments:

  • EU Council President Donald Tusk announces delay in tweet; says decision will be formalized without a leaders’ summit
  • French President Emmanuel Macron dropped his opposition to three-month delay, paving way for EU agreement
  • Johnson needs a two-thirds majority in Parliament to win Monday’s vote on holding a December 12 general election
  • Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he won’t vote for an election until the UK is no longer at risk of crashing out of the EU without an agreement
  • UK opposition parties the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party are working together to try to force a snap poll on December 9, reflecting schism with Labour

EU Envoys Agree Delay to Jan. 31: Tusk (9:30 a.m.)

Envoys representing the 27 remaining European Union members states agreed to the UK request for a Brexit extension to January 31, EU Council President Donald Tusk said on Twitter. The bloc’s decision will be formalised “through a written procedure,” Tusk said, meaning that there will be no leaders’ summit.

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, told reporters the diplomats’ meeting was “very short, effective and constructive” as he left the room.

What Envoys Will Discuss in Brussels (9 a.m.)

Envoys from the remaining 27 EU members states debate the wording of two separate documents this morning - a six-page legal decision granting an extension, and a two-page declaration explaining the reasoning. The main points of the documents, drafts of which were obtained by Bloomberg on Sunday, are as follows:

Brexit will take place on the first day of the month following the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement, “or on 1 February 2020, whichever is the earliest”.

The Withdrawal Agreement isn’t up for renegotiation during the extension period. Note that EU leaders took a similar decision when they granted the previous extension in April, but broke their rule after Johnson’s government, with different red lines, took office.

The UK must nominate a candidate for EU Commissioner after the extension is granted. However, the wording of the documents suggests that the confirmation process of the British candidate may not be finalized before the end of January, meaning the UK won’t actually get to have a commissioner.

The EU reminds the UK that it still has the right to revoke Brexit.

Finally, EU governments warn that the UK should do nothing which is seen as sabotaging the bloc during the extension period.

Johnson’s Different Routes to an Election (8:50 a.m.)

The European Union’s apparent intention to extend the Brexit deadline to January 31 could yet have an impact on Monday’s vote in the House of Commons. Yet Boris Johnson still looks likely to fall short of the two-thirds majority he needs to secure an early general election. That’s because an extension on its own doesn’t satisfy the opposition Labour Party’s position that it won’t support a snap poll until the risk of a no-deal Brexit is completely removed.

But over the weekend, another option emerged via a proposal from the Liberal Democrats and Scottish National Party. They suggested amending the Fixed-term Parliament Act to set the next election for December 9, which crucially would require only a simply majority to pass. The risk for the government lies in MPs trying to attach amendments to the bill, but a UK official later indicated such a move could be considered if it loses Monday’s vote.

There’s a final way Johnson could get his election - though it’s a longer and untested process, with significant risks. The opposition or Johnson himself could trigger a no-confidence vote in the government, which requires a simply majority to succeed. Party leaders then would have 14 days to form a new government that can win a confidence vote, with Parliament dissolved - and a general election scheduled - if all efforts fail.

Macron Backs Brexit Delay (7:48 a.m.)

French President Emmanuel Macron will agree to a Brexit extension, easing the risk of the UK leaving the European Union without a deal on October 31, according to a French government official.

Macron has agreed a delay until January 31, said the official, who asked not to be identified. With other member states already supporting the move, France’s backing paves the way for EU diplomats to sign off on an extension during talks in Brussels on Monday.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Company Snapshot
Voting Booth
What potential restrictions on unvaccinated South Africans may make the biggest difference to public health, the economy?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Limited access to restaurants and bars
11% - 161 votes
Limited access to shopping centres
14% - 205 votes
Limited access to live events, including sport matches and festivals
27% - 387 votes
Workplace vaccine mandates
47% - 674 votes