British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has not signed the letter asking the European Union to delay Brexit and sent another letter saying he does not want to postpone the deadline, a source in his office said on Saturday (October 19).
Johnson was required by law to send the delay request after MPs refused to back his Brexit deal on Saturday but has insisted Britain must leave the European Union on October 31 as planned.
The Downing Street source said that Johnson had sent a photocopy of the letter containing details about him asking for the delay if there is no Brexit deal, but didn’t sign it.
Another source explained that it is required by the law to write and ask for the delay if there is no Brexit deal.
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The prime minister has however signed another letter, which makes clear he does not want to delay Brexit beyond the end of this month.
Johnson vowed to stick to an October 31 Brexit deadline, despite MPs winning more time to study a divorce deal he struck with Brussels.
He told parliament the “meaningful vote” on his divorce agreement with the European Union “has been voided of meaning” but added: “I will not negotiate a delay with the EU, and neither does the law compel me to do so.”
British MPs on Saturday voted to delay a decision on Johnson’s Brexit deal, arguing they needed more time to study its contents before an October 31 deadline.
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In a setback to Johnson, the 322 versus 306 vote on an important amendment means that the UK prime minister is bound by the Benn Act passed earlier by the parliamentarians to write to the EU by midnight on Saturday seeking a delay to the October 31 deadline as no new deal has been passed in the Commons by the October 19 cut-off date.
While Johnson and some of his team have previously said that he will abide by the rule of law, it remains unclear what next steps are expected from Downing Street.
Lawmakers backed an amendment tabled by Conservative Party MP Oliver Letwin which effectively forces the government to request an extension until January next year, while they scrutinised the proposed domestic legislation to enforce the deal with Brussels.
The European Commission has urged the British government to quickly explain how it wants to proceed with Brexit preparations after losing another parliamentary vote.
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Spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said Brussels “takes note of the vote in the House of Commons today on the so-called Letwin Amendment meaning that the Withdrawal Agreement itself was not put to vote today. “It will be for the UK government to inform us about the next steps as soon as possible,” she tweeted.
Johnson opened the session with a plea for all sides of the House to come together behind the “great deal”.
Let us come together as democrats to end this debilitating feud. Let us come together as democrats behind this deal, the one proposition that fulfills the verdict of the majority but which also allows us to bring together the two halves of our hearts, to bring together the two halves of our nation, said Johnson in his statement to the Commons.
In reference to the 52 per cent versus 48 per cent vote in favour of Brexit in the June 2016 referendum, he said: “Lets speak now both for the 52 and the 48. Let us go for a deal that can heal this country, lets go for a deal that can heal this country and allow us all to express our legitimate desires for the deepest possible friendship and partnership with our neighbours. A deal that allows us to create a new shared destiny with them. And a deal that also allows us to express our confidence in our own democratic institutions, to make our own laws, to determine our own future, to believe in ourselves once again as an open, generous global, outward-looking and free-trading United Kingdom.”