EU tells Boris Johnson Brexit will be delayed - but stalls over date for new deadline

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Union's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier attend a news conference after agreeing on the Brexit deal, at the sidelines of the European Union leaders summit, in Brussels, Belgium October 17, 2019. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir
The stalemate continues as the EU is yet to set a new date for the Brexit deadline (Picture: REUTERS/Francois Lenoir)

The EU has agreed on an extension to the Brexit deadline - but hasn’t yet given a new date.

The EU 27 accepted the “principle of an extension”, a European Commission spokeswoman said, but a decision on the length will not be made until next week.

The lack of a set date means the current stalemate in UK politics continues.

Reports have suggested that European countries want to defer a decision until they see the outcome of a Commons vote on a general election, but Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said he wants to see the terms of any Brexit extension before deciding whether to back an early election.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits Middleton Primary School In Milton Keynes, Britain, October 25, 2019. Paul Grover/Pool via REUTERS
Boris Johnson is pushing for a pre-Christmas general election (Picture: Paul Grover/Pool via REUTERS)

Boris Johnson is pushing for a December general election and has called on MPs to back a vote on December 12, saying he will give them more time to consider his Brexit deal if they agree.

He is expected to table his third attempt to get an early general election on Monday, but his success depends on the backing of the Labour Party as the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act (FTPA) requires the support of a “super majority” of two-thirds of MPs to be approved.

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While Labour has not ruled out backing the PM’s bid for a pre-Christmas election, Jeremy Corbyn has insisted a no-deal Brexit must be “taken off the table”.

Earlier Chancellor Sajid Javid has admitted that Mr Johnson wouldn’t be able to deliver Brexit by October 31, despite saying he would rather “be dead in a ditch” than fail to meet the deadline.

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Mr Javid told BBC Breakfast: “We have to accept we won’t be able to leave on October 31” but laid the blame firmly at the feet of Parliament and Jeremy Corbyn.

He said: “We’ve done everything possible to leave on October 31. We got that deal that everyone said that we couldn’t get, we planned extremely carefully for a no-deal outcome as well just in case but because of the actions of Parliament and especially of Jeremy Corbyn we’ve had more dither and more delay.”

Mr Javid said the government will push “again and again” for a general election if the opposition denies Prime Minister Boris Johnson a pre-Christmas poll.

He said the stalemate over Brexit had reduced Westminster to a “zombie parliament”, and it is up to Labour to end the deadlock by agreeing to go back to the country.

He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “The Opposition have said, week after week, that if there is a delay of three months, which is what they requested through Parliament, then they will vote for a general election, so let’s see if they keep their word.

“And if they don’t then we will keep bringing back to Parliament a motion to have an election – and we will keep doing that again and again.”

Will Labour back a general election?

While Labour has not ruled out backing the PM’s bid for a pre-Christmas election, Jeremy Corbyn has insisted a no-deal Brexit must be “taken off the table”.

The Labour leader said he wanted to see the terms of any Brexit extension offered by the EU before deciding which way to vote on Monday.

“Take no-deal off the table and we absolutely support a general election,” he said in an interview on Thursday evening. “But no-deal must be taken off the table.”

Britain's opposition Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks at the House of Commons as parliament discusses Brexit, sitting on a Saturday for the first time since the 1982 Falklands War, in London, Britain, October 19, 2019, in this screen grab taken from video. Parliament TV via REUTERS
Jeremy Corbyn has insisted that a no-deal Brexit be taken off the table (Picture: Parliament TV via REUTERS)

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said they needed an “explicit commitment” that a no-deal Brexit was off the table before they would be prepared to back an election.

She told the Today programme that that could require further legislation as promises by Mr Johnson were “not worth the paper they’re written on”.

She added: “The December day is a ludicrous day. We’ve not had a general election at Christmas for over a century, and there’s good reasons for that.”

Some Labour MPs are opposed to a snap election at a time when the party is trailing the Tories in the polls.

Senior Labour backbencher Ben Bradshaw said: “I think the overwhelming view of Labour MPs and Labour supporters in the country is we need a referendum first before an election.”

The SNP, Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru have refused to back Mr Johnson’s plan.

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