UK: Weeks to Oct. 31, Johnson’s Brexit plans unraveling

LONDON

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plans for Brexit appear to be unraveling, as negotiations with the EU on a new deal falter, while court papers reveal he will seek an extension for a deal beyond Oct. 31.

Johnson’s proposal, meant to form the basis of a deal to leave the EU, centers on a change to the Northern Ireland backstop arrangement, as it had been previously negotiated. The British government is now suggesting that Northern Ireland will leave the customs union territory, alongside the rest of U.K., but stay within a single market for goods and agriculture – an arrangement that would be reviewed every four years.

Though the EU has not dismissed the suggestion out of hand, EU sources claim that such a proposal cannot form the basis of a new deal, simply because of the implications for the Northern Ireland peace process, where the idea of bringing back a hard border is very controversial.

The failing negotiations with the EU come amid new revelations that Johnson had made representations to the Scottish courts that he would seek an extension from the EU beyond Oct. 31, despite consistently making statements to the contrary to both Parliament and the public.

Johnson’s position that the UK will leave the EU, deal or no deal, come what may on Oct. 31 stands completely at odds with the law, as the Benn Act, as it is known, forces the U.K. government to apply for an extension if no deal has been reached by Oct. 31.

Submissions made by the government to the Scottish courts in relation to the legality of suspending Parliament, a case the government lost late last month, now make it clear that Downing Street will indeed comply with the law as it stands.

It seems that not only are Johnson’s negotiating tactics failing, but he will be unable to follow through with a core repeated pledge to the public, that he will take the U.K. out of the EU on Oct. 31. As it stands, he now has less than 30 days to find a way out of this political conundrum.
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