Brussels deals blow to PM’s Brexit proposals as talks pushed back
Discussions between the UK and European Union will not take place this weekend as anticipated as Brussels dealt a heavy blow to Boris Johnson’s new Brexit proposals.
Talks between the two sides were thought likely to continue on Saturday after the Prime Minister set out his plan to replace the controversial Irish backstop.
But the European Commission said EU member states had agreed the proposals “do not provide a basis for concluding an agreement”.
A spokesman said discussions between the two sides would not take place this weekend and instead the UK would be given “another opportunity to present its proposals in detail” on Monday.
“Michel Barnier debriefed COREPER (The Permanent Representatives Committee) yesterday, where member states agreed that the UK proposals do not provide a basis for concluding an agreement,” the spokesman added.
The PM’s Europe adviser, David Frost, has been in Brussels for technical talks with officials.
The move came after Mr Johnson insisted on Friday that he would not delay Brexit despite his lawyers saying he will comply with a law calling for the October 31 exit date to be postponed if there is no deal.
The Prime Minister accepted he must send a letter requesting a delay to Brexit beyond the Halloween deadline if no deal is agreed with Parliament by October 19, Scotland’s highest civil court heard.
But the PM later said the options facing the country were his proposed new Brexit deal or leaving without an agreement, “but no delay”.
The Prime Minister has previously said “we will obey the law” but will also leave on October 31 in any circumstance, without specifying how he would achieve the apparently contradictory goals – fuelling speculation that he had identified a loophole to get around the Benn Act.
The Telegraph, citing EU sources, said senior ministers had reached out to the Hungarian government for assurances it would veto any request for a delay – seen as one way the PM could comply with the law and deliver Brexit this month.
He has also declared that he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than ask for a delay.
Any extension to the Article 50 process – the mechanism by which the UK leaves the European Union – would have to be agreed by all 27 other EU leaders.
The legal action – led by businessman Vince Dale, SNP MP Joanna Cherry QC and Jolyon Maugham QC – asked the court to require Mr Johnson to seek an extension to avoid leaving the EU without a deal.
Andrew Webster QC, representing the UK Government, said the documents it has submitted to the court are a “clear statement” as to what the Prime Minister will do.
He argued there is no need for an order to be made forcing a letter requesting an Article 50 extension to be sent under the terms of the Benn Act, because the court has it on record it will be sent.
Judge Lord Pentland is to announce his decision on Monday.