LONDON: A bill demanding that Prime Minister Boris Johnson delay Britain’s withdrawal from the EU on October 31 if he cannot get a divorce deal became law yesterday but his office insisted that Brexit would happen by that date, “no ifs and buts”.
Parliament was also likely to reject Johnson’s call for a snap general election, which he is seeking in order to break a deadlock over Brexit that has intensified since he took office in July pledging to get on with the departure.
“The prime minister is very clear that he will take this country out of the EU on October 31 no ifs or buts, he will not sanction any more pointless delays,” Johnson’s office said after the bill became law.
Johnson was due to suspend parliament for over a month from yesterday after it votes on his latest demand for a snap election. Johnson had set up the suspension – called a prorogation – last month in what opponents cast as an attempt to sideline legislators over Brexit.
The departure from the EU, the UK’s most significant geopolitical move in decades, remains in question more than three years since the 2016 referendum, with possible outcomes ranging from a no-deal exit to abandoning the whole endeavour.
BlackRock, a US investment firm that manages $6.8 trillion of assets, said a no-deal Brexit or a referendum had become more plausible.
An alliance of opposition legislators and rebels from Johnson’s own Conservative Party passed the bill that became law yesterday having received the assent of Queen Elizabeth, ordering the prime minister to delay Brexit to 2020 unless he gets a deal.
It was unclear what Johnson’s next move would be: while the law will oblige him to seek a delay unless he can strike a new deal, EU leaders have repeatedly said they have received no specific proposals.
“I’m absolutely undaunted by whatever may take place in parliament,” Johnson said in Dublin ahead of talks with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar.
“We must get Brexit done because the UK must come out on October 31, or else I fear that permanent damage will be done to confidence in our democracy in the UK,” Johnson said.
House of Commons Speaker John Bercow, who played a key role in the Brexit crisis, took a veiled swipe at Johnson as he announced yesterday he would stand down from the role, issuing a warning to the government not to “degrade” parliament.
Johnson, a former journalist who derided the EU and later became the face of the 2016 Vote Leave campaign, has repeatedly promised to deliver Brexit on October 31 and has said he will not countenance any delay.
Ireland told Johnson yesterday that he must make specific proposals on the future of the Irish border if there is to be any hope of averting a no-deal Brexit, saying Dublin cannot rely on simple promises.
“In the absence of agreed alternative arrangements, no backstop is no deal for us,” Varadkar, standing beside Johnson outside the Irish government, said. “We are open to alternatives, but they must realistic ones, legally binding and workable and we haven’t received such proposals to date.”
The blunt remarks by Varadkar indicate the difficulty of Johnson’s gamble of using the threat of a no-deal exit to convince Germany and France that they must rewrite an exit agreement struck last November.
Johnson, who has no majority in parliament, is seeking an election just a few weeks ahead of the October 31 deadline, though legislators have already refused that request once.
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn met other opposition party leaders and they agreed they would vote against his election bid.
The bill seeking to block a no-deal exit will force Johnson to seek a three-month extension to the October 31 deadline unless parliament has either approved a deal or consented by October 19 to leave without one.