EU ‘ready to scrap dead­line for Brexit’

The Daily Telegraph - - Front page - By and in Brus­sels

Gor­don Rayner, Harry Yorke

Simon Tay­lor

THE EU is pre­par­ing to ex­tend Ar­ti­cle 50 to avoid a no-deal Brexit, it was claimed last night, as Euroscep­tic MPS said Brus­sels was start­ing to crack un­der pres­sure from Boris John­son.

Gor­don Brown used a speech in Scot­land to claim that Em­manuel Macron, the French pres­i­dent, was ready to “with­draw” the Oc­to­ber 31 dead­line and ex­tend ne­go­ti­a­tions. The former prime min­is­ter made clear the of­fer could have been made as early as last night.

Ahead of a week in which Par­lia­ment will be­come the bat­tle­ground for the big­gest fight yet over Brexit, Mr John­son warned of “last­ing dam­age” if Brexit was de­layed any fur­ther.

The Prime Min­is­ter told op­po­nents of no deal that “the more our friends and part­ners think at the back of their minds that Brexit could be stopped, that the UK could be kept in [the EU] by Par­lia­ment, the less likely they are to give us the deal that we need”.

Last night, the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion said an­other extension was “ob­vi­ously a pos­si­bil­ity” in a soft­en­ing of its po­si­tion ahead of in­ten­sive ne­go­ti­a­tions next week.

Mr Brown sug­gested that by of­fer­ing an extension, the EU would un­der­mine Mr John­son’s ar­gu­ment that Brexit has to hap­pen in two months, deal or no deal, but Brex­i­teers cited the news as ev­i­dence of Brus­sels start­ing to panic.

It came as Sir John Ma­jor, the former prime min­is­ter, an­nounced he would go to court next week to try to stop Mr John­son pro­rogu­ing Par­lia­ment. Sir John will give ev­i­dence in one of two court cases sched­uled for next week aimed at pre­vent­ing Mr John­son from sus­pend­ing Par­lia­ment for five weeks.

On Tues­day, Mr John­son and Euroscep­tic MPS will face off in the Com­mons against a cross-party coali­tion of Re­main-back­ing MPS de­ter­mined, with the help of the Speaker, to pass a law forc­ing the Prime Min­is­ter to ex­tend Ar­ti­cle 50.

Last night a Daily Mail poll sug­gested the Tory lead over Labour has nearly dou­bled in the past three weeks, with the par­ties on 31 and 24 per cent re­spec­tively.

Mr Brown said yes­ter­day he had been in con­tact with EU lead­ers in recent days and had been told Brus­sels

was pre­par­ing to of­fer Bri­tain an extension to the Hal­lowe’en dead­line. He said that Mr Macron, the man who re­fused to grant Theresa May more than a six­month de­lay when it was agreed in April, was now happy to grant a fur­ther extension.

Mr Brown said the EU’S of­fer would “re­move the ex­cuse” for a no-deal Brexit by mak­ing clear the 27 other EU mem­bers were happy to keep talk­ing, but Euroscep­tic MPS read it dif­fer­ently.

David Davis, the former Brexit sec­re­tary, said: “I think it would in­di­cate that yet again, as we thought they would, they are blink­ing.

“From the be­gin­ning I’ve said it won’t be the three years that mat­ter but the last three weeks. It will be in that pe­riod that they be­gin to make con­ces­sions.”

He said there was now a “far more con­struc­tive ap­proach” from Mr Macron and An­gela Merkel, the Ger­man chan­cel­lor, than Bri­tain saw “when we just gave in to them” un­der Mrs May.

Mr John­son told Sky News that fail­ing to leave on Oc­to­ber 31 would do “last­ing dam­age to peo­ple’s trust in pol­i­tics”. He added: “We told the peo­ple we would get it done. We have a way to get it done. We’re in the last stages now of ne­go­ti­at­ing with our friends about a way to get it done. If we can’t suc­ceed in that ne­go­ti­a­tion, we must come out any­way.”

Mr Brown said: “I have ac­tu­ally been talk­ing to some Euro­pean lead­ers this week. I be­lieve that next week the EU will with­draw the Oc­to­ber 31 dead­line …

“My in­for­ma­tion is that Macron no longer holds to that dead­line ... And none of the other Euro­pean com­mis­sion­ers, in­clud­ing the new pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion, I be­lieve will hold to that dead­line.”

A Euro­pean Com­mis­sion spokesman yes­ter­day said: “An­other extension is ob­vi­ously a pos­si­bil­ity and de­pend­ing on the pur­pose the EU could be forth­com­ing.”

Be­fore be­com­ing Euro­pean Com­mis­sion pres­i­den­t­elect, Ur­sula von der Leyen said she would “sup­port a fur­ther extension if good

‘I be­lieve that next week the EU will with­draw the Oc­to­ber 31 dead­line’

rea­sons are pro­vided”.

Sir Oliver Letwin, the Re­main-sup­port­ing Tory MP spear­head­ing at­tempts to block pro­ro­ga­tion and no deal, ad­mit­ted yes­ter­day that he had been talk­ing to John Ber­cow, the Speaker, “for many months” about how to thwart both op­tions.

He is be­ing helped by Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit sec­re­tary, who con­firmed he had talked to Philip Ham­mond, the former chan­cel­lor, to ce­ment the cross-party plot to pre­vent no deal by pass­ing a law re­quir­ing Mr John­son to seek a fur­ther Ar­ti­cle 50 extension. Jo Swin­son, the Lib Dem leader, and Jeremy Cor­byn, the Labour leader, have also been in­volved.

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