Johnson, who has recently come under intense pressure from opposition MPs, is required by the Benn Act to request another extension of Article Fifty, if the House of Commons rejects either a no-deal departure from the EU or his amended divorce bill.
Journalist Marcus Stead has shared his views on the matter.
Sputnik: Will the EU accept Boris Johnson’s new Brexit deal?
Marcus Stead: The first thing to point out is that we’ve come a long way from the EU’s stance of point-blank refusing to negotiate any further, which is what they said their position was after Theresa May’s deal was negotiated, so it’s clear that at some level negotiations are taking place right now between Boris Johnson’s team and EU officials and this week is going to be pivotal.
The so-called Benn Act was fast-tracked through parliament in a bid to prevent the government from forcing through a so-called no-deal Brexit, so that means unless a deal is agreed by parliament by October the 19th; Prime Minister Boris Johnson would be bound by law to send a letter to the President of the European Council Donald Tusk, requesting an extension to Article Fifty until the 31st of January 2020.
That extension, however, would have to be accepted by all twenty-seven EU member states, and there are signs that they might not be inclined to do so, and let’s not forget that when the previous extension was agreed back in March, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier warned the UK not to waste the additional time.
It’s fair to say that the last seven months haven’t exactly been productive, and the EU would question what the purpose of this extension is, and it’s clear that Johnson doesn’t want it, it’s at the behest of parliament, but what does parliament propose to do to break the deadlock? There’s no clear answer to that.
We should also remember that the EU does not want to make it easy for the UK to leave, because if the Article Fifty process was deemed to be relatively straightforward; it could become very appealing indeed for other EU member states to follow the UK’s example, particularly states in southern Europe with high youth unemployment like Greece and Italy, these are states that are currently stuck in the Euro, they have to accept the interest rates set by the European Central Bank, which is currently totally unsuitable for these country’s economic circumstances.
Sputnik: Could Boris Johnson find a loophole in the Benn Act that would allow him to deliver a no-deal Brexit?
Marcus Stead: Let’s say for example that the extension is granted, and as I’ve already alluded to; that is a very big if. Boris Johnson has held firm in his position, that we are leaving the EU at the end of October with or without a deal, so how could this happen if parliament’s extension is granted.
There were some clues in little-reported events at last week’s Conservative Party conference in Manchester. We had the leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg telling a fringe event that Article Fifty and EU law overrides the Benn Act.
As Article Fifty is outlined in EU law, this could if Mr Rees Moggs assessment is correct; override that Benn Act. The second possible option all be it one that the government doesn’t seem to favour, is that Boris Johnson will follow the law and write the letter on the 19th of October, but will then send a second letter making it clear that the government does not really want this extension.
That extension has to be agreed by all twenty-seven EU member states and he himself could veto the extension, or he could ask the EU member states to do so on his behalf.
A third option is that there is a possible loophole in the law. A deal needs to pass parliament on the 19th of October to prevent that letter from being sent, however further legislation would still need to pass parliament by October the 31st to avoid a no-deal Brexit, and that legislation could fall at one of many hurdles along the way, leading to a no-deal exit from the EU.
There could be some other very clever legal or technical trick that the government has up its sleeve that none of us had thought about.
Sputnik: Could Jeremy Corbyn win the next general election?
Marcus Stead: It’s more likely than not that there will be a general election before Christmas. Under the fixed-term parliaments' act, two-thirds of the House of Commons need to vote in favour of calling an election, and Labour have stated that they would support a motion calling for a general election if an extension to Article Fifty is granted.
We need to look at this particular scenario from an EU perspective. If Boris Johnson sends that letter requesting an extension because he’s legally obliged to, rather than because he actually wants to; the EU would, therefore, ask why on Earth they should grant that extension since there was no clear purpose to it.
It’s the parliament, not the government requesting the extension, but they did not state why and Johnson is under no obligation to explain why because it’s parliament rather than his’s wish. If parliament’s purpose in requesting an extension is to dissolve itself and call a general election; that in itself is fraught with risk.
There’s a very real possibility that Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party would win a sizeable majority, after which they could say to the EU that they have both a parliamentary and a democratic mandate to leave the EU without a deal if necessary.
The two most likely scenarios are first of all; that Boris Johnson will get a deal of some sort this week or early next week, and in reality that is likely to be Theresa May’s deal with bells on, Nigel Farage and his Brexit Party will not like it, Boris Johnson and the EU will present it as something completely different, but in reality it will not be all that different to Theresa May’s deal.
That will be put before parliament, and the Labour MP Stephen Kinnock has stated that around thirty Labour MPs could be prepared to back such a deal and that number could be as high as fifty, and with Northern Ireland’s DUP on the side as well, that deal would pass.
The other scenario is that there have been cross-party talks between backbench MPs from all the opposition parties, and they are proposing to find a way to get Theresa May’s deal before parliament one more time, now, speaker, John Bercow has made it clear that rejected legislation cannot be put before the House of Commons in the same form, so they are going to have to find a way to tweak it, but many consider this to be one of the only ways to prevent a no-deal Brexit.
The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.