UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will request a Brexit extension if no deal is reached with the European Union by October 19, according to documents read out in Scotland’s highest court on Friday, PA news agency reports.
Johnson previously said he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than seek another Brexit delay, but the documents suggest that he has accepted the terms of the Benn Act. This was made law by parliamentarians in an attempt to stop the UK from crashing out of the EU without a deal.
It comes after the Prime Minister publicly said the government “will obey the law, and will come out by October 31,” an assertion that fueled speculation he may have found a loophole in the legislation.
Johnson’s office declined to comment on the documents, when asked by CNN, though more than one Downing Street source continued to refer to the legislation using the controversial phrase “surrender act.”
The documents also come just one day after Johnson told the UK’s House of Commons that the country will leave the EU “with or without a deal.”
Aidan O’Neill – who is representing the campaigners behind the legal action – said in court that Johnson could not be trusted, despite saying he would comply with the law.
“We can’t trust this government, in light of statements it has made, that it will comply with the law,” O’Neill said, according to PA.
If Johnson’s government complies with the law, then the Prime Minister will likely have two routes to stick to his October 31 promise: by agreeing a deal with the EU before the deadline, or requesting an extension in the hope that the EU will refuse it.
The developments come after the Prime Minister unveiled his Brexit plan earlier this week in a letter to the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker.
In the letter, he claimed that his plan removed the need for the controversial Irish border backstop, while not breaching the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland.
In the letter, Johnson told Juncker: “This Government wants to get a deal, as I am sure we all do. If we cannot reach one, it would represent a failure of statecraft for which we would all be responsible. Our predecessors have tackled harder problems: we can surely solve this one.”
But following discussions between the EU and the UK on Friday, a spokesperson for the European Commission said the UK’s new proposals did not provide a basis for an agreement.
“We have completed discussions with the UK for today. We gave our initial reaction to the UK’s proposals and asked many questions on the legal text. We will meet again on Monday to give the UK another opportunity to present its proposals in detail,” the commission spokesperson told reporters, adding, “The UK proposals do not provide a basis for concluding an agreement.”
Johnson’s deal ‘only supported by one party’
Meanwhile, while speaking in Denmark on Friday, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said he would support a request for an extension of the Brexit deadline, currently set for October 31, but “only for a good reason.”
Varadkar said the Brexit deal presented by Johnson does not have political support in Ireland and was “only supported by one political party,” whereas the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated with Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May was supported “by all.”
On the island of Ireland, only the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of Northern Ireland has voiced its support for the government’s new Brexit proposals.
Varadkar said the problem was that the proposed Brexit deal appeared to create two borders, adding that there was “a long way to go” until an agreement acceptable to all sides could be reached.
Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, who appeared alongside Varadkar at the joint press conference, also said an extension was “better than no deal.”
CNN’s Arnaud Siad and Luke McGee contributed reporting.