Donald Tusk Backs Brexit Delay As MPs Scrap Johnson Timetable

EU Council President does not rule out extension to January 31 or shorter delay.

EU Council President Donald Tusk has said he will back a delay to Brexit after MPs scrapped Boris Johnson’s fast-tracked timetable.

The prime minister’s bid to ram through Brexit legislation in time for the October 31 deadline was blocked by parliament on Tuesday - even though a majority of MPs backed Johnson’s new deal.

The government was aiming to push through the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, which puts the deal he thrashed out with Brussels last week into UK law, in just three days, but MPs want more time to scrutinise his plans.

Now, Tusk has said he will recommend a delay beyond the Halloween deadline to other EU leaders.

It is not clear whether EU leaders will back a shorter, flexible extension or a full three-month delay, however, with MPs having made clear they back Johnson’s new agreement.

Johnson’s official request was to ask for a delay until the end of January, and Number 10 sources said on Tuesday night that were Brussels to insist on this the PM would demand a general election.

“Parliament and Corbyn have repeatedly voted for delay. On Saturday parliament asked for a delay until January and today parliament blew its last chance,” the source said.

“If parliament’s delay is agreed by Brussels, then the only way the country can move on is with an election. This Parliament is broken.

“The public will have to choose whether they want to get Brexit done with Boris or whether they want to spend 2020 having two referendums on Brexit and Scotland with Corbyn.”

Labour insists that Johnson is the ”author of his own misfortune”.

Starmer tweeted: “He only tried to bounce his deal through parliament because he knows it will not withstand scrutiny. A Brexit deal driven by the ideology of deregulation must be stopped.”

Tusk’s recommendation is significant but does not guarantee EU leaders will agree a delay. Any one EU leader can veto the move and France’s Emmanuel Macron is among those who has expressed scepticism about any extension.

Johnson wrote to EU leaders on Saturday night after MPs refused to give the legal text of his deal the green-light.

They feared the move could open the door to a no-deal Brexit before Halloween if hardline Brexiteers refused to back UK legislation supporting the deal.

In a race against time, the PM then tabled the Withdrawal Agreement Bill on Monday night, giving MPs less than a day to read more than 100 pages of the legislation before debate opened.

European Council President Donald Tusk
European Council President Donald Tusk

Now, MPs have rejected the three-day timetable and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has asked the PM to work with the opposition on a “sensible” agenda.

But MPs - including 19 Labour rebels - backed the Bill’s second reading stage, in what was effectively the first time a Commons majority for any deal was found.

Johnson thanked all MPs who backed his deal, and said: “One way or another we will leave the EU with this deal to which this House has just given its assent.”

It is thought opposition MPs will now try to amend the UK legislation for a customs union and a second referendum - but it is not clear either proposal has widespread support.

Chief executive of the pro-Remain campaign Naomi Smith said trying to push through the deal was a “historical mistake”.

“We must use this extension to give the public the final say and bring an end to this sorry saga,” she said.


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