Boris Johnson is resolved to fight his own legislators in court over their demands to postpone Brexit if no withdrawal agreement is reached by 31 October, Bloomberg reports, citing a senior government official.
Prior to its controversial prorogation this month, Parliament passed a law that obliges the prime minister to ask the EU for a Brexit extension on 19 October, if there’s no deal agreed upon and Parliament hasn’t given its consent to leaving without an agreement.
But the unnamed official said Johnson will refuse to write to the EU and will seek to leave the bloc without a deal if he fails to seal one at a summit in Brussels on 17-18 October.
Johnson has already promised he would refuse to request a Brexit delay last week, saying the law “would give the EU the power to decide how long the UK had to stay in”.
The prime minister is expected to fight legal action opponents of a no-deal will likely launch in court after the 19 October deadline he was given.
The source suggested Johnson’s opponents are also likely to force through legislation aimed at revoking Article 50 and stopping Brexit altogether in the absence of a divorce agreement.
Ain’t no Bounds Tight Enough
Boris Johnson flexed his muscles on Sunday, comparing Britain (or perhaps himself) to the giant green superhero, Bruce “the Hulk” Banner.
“Banner might be bound in manacles, but when provoked he would explode out of them,” he told the Daily Mail. “Hulk always escaped, no matter how tightly bound in he seemed to be – and that is the case for this country. We will come out on October 31 and we will get it done.”
A Downing Street source was quoted as saying: “The PM will not negotiate a delay at the European Council on October 17 and 18. We expect a court battle afterwards and attempts to pass legislation revoking Article 50, which the Prime Minister will refuse to consider in any circumstances.”
Irish Backstop Still Under Discussion
Britain's interior minister, Priti Patel, reiterated the Johnson government's commitment to getting a Brexit deal on Sunday. The talks are still stalled over the Irish border backstop, a policy in the (yet unratified) withdrawal agreement intended to preserve the invisible border between Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK, and the Republic of Ireland, a EU member state.
That backstop provision was one of the main reasons why Parliament voted down Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement and forced her to resign: the lawmakers are concerned that it could keep the UK tied to some rules of the EU’s single market and thus prevent it from pursuing an independent trade policy.
Johnson will travel to Luxembourg on Monday for a crunch meeting with Juncker, the European Commission president, and Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator.
In a speech to MEPs this week, the latter implied that Johnson’s government has not formulated any concrete proposals to replace or rewrite the backstop clause.
“I cannot tell you objectively whether contacts with the government of Mr Johnson will be able to reach an agreement by mid-October,” he said. “We will see in the coming weeks if the British are able to make concrete proposals in writing that are legally operational.”
The government coalition led by Johnson’s Conservative Party lost its one-member parliament majority in the early days of September, after a Tory MP seeking to stop a no-deal Brexit defected to the Liberal Democrats.
Garnering Support for a New Brexit Deal
However, a cross-party majority of legislators could still greenlight Brexit on 31 October if there is a deal in place by that time. Four senior members of the European Research Group, an alliance of Brexiteers within the Conservative Party, have indicated that they are ready to support a revised Brexit deal if Johnson can negotiate changes to the Irish backstop provision, according to The Times.
The newspaper has also claimed that the Democratic Unionist Party, which has long opposed any divergence between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK post-Brexit, has privately agreed to potential regulatory checks in the Irish Sea – however, the party publicly debunked the report.
Additionally, three Labour MPs – Caroline Flint, Stephen Kinnock and Yvonne Fovargue – are also said to have signalled they could back the new, compromise version of Theresa May’s deal.
And if there are prospects for getting a revised Brexit deal through Parliament, the odds for a successful no-deal scenario are becoming increasingly slim.
Last week, 21 moderate Tory MPs allied with opposition against Johnson and voted for the bill forcing him to request a Brexit delay. The rebel lawmakers were all expelled from the party, and Johnson has since faced, but ignored, calls to reinstate them. Some of them said they would stand down in the next election.
David Cameron Steps In
The Daily Mail speculated on Sunday that former Prime Minister David Cameron – the man who called the Brexit referendum over three years ago – has privately assured the disgraced MPs that he would help them try to keep their seats in Parliament by campaigning for them in their constituencies if they stood at the next election as independents.
“David reached out to lots of us and even said he would come and campaign if we stood as independents. He was very open about it on the phone,” a rebel MP told the newspaper. Cameron has yet to comment.
In a recent interview, the ex-Tory leader accused the 2016 Leave campaign, led by Johnson, of misleading voters when advocating for Brexit. He then took a personal dig at Johnson and fellow Brexiteer, Michael Gove, saying they were acting “appallingly” and were “trashing the government”.