Brexit tur­moil

British PM sends un­signed let­ter to EU ask­ing for de­lay

The Korea Times - - FRONT PAGE -

— British Prime Min­is­ter Boris John­son re­luc­tantly wrote to Brus­sels late Satur­day ask­ing for a Brexit ex­ten­sion af­ter MPs voted to force him into seek­ing a de­lay be­yond Oct. 31.

But John­son, who has pinned his pre­mier­ship on get­ting Bri­tain out of the Euro­pean Union on time, re­fused to sign the let­ter he sent to Euro­pean Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Don­ald Tusk.

The Con­ser­va­tive leader also sent a sec­ond signed let­ter in­sist­ing he was not seek­ing an ex­ten­sion to the Brexit dead­line, which has al­ready been post­poned twice.

In a day of high drama in the House of Com­mons, MPs de­clined to give their back­ing to the re­vised with­drawal agree­ment John­son struck with the EU this week un­til the leg­is­la­tion needed to rat­ify it has passed.

Hav­ing failed to back a di­vorce deal, they trig­gered a law re­quir­ing John­son to write to EU lead­ers by the end of the day ask­ing to de­lay Brexit, to avoid the risk that Bri­tain crashes out in less than a fort­night.

John­son sent a pho­to­copy of the let­ter that was con­tained in the law re­quir­ing him to ask for the de­lay, but did not sign it, showed a copy re­leased by his Down­ing Street of­fice early Sun­day.

He wrote and signed an­other let­ter which made clear he does not want to de­lay Brexit be­yond the end of this month.

“Re­gret­tably, par­lia­ment missed the op­por­tu­nity to in­ject mo­men­tum into the rat­i­fi­ca­tion process,” John­son wrote in the signed let­ter, re­gret­ting that EU lead­ers would now have to spend yet more time on Brexit.

“A fur­ther ex­ten­sion would dam­age the in­ter­ests of the U.K. and our EU part­ners, and the re­la­tion­ship between us. We must bring this process to a con­clu­sion.”

John­son nonethe­less said he re­mained “con­fi­dent” of com­plet­ing the rat­i­fi­ca­tion process by Oct. 31.

A third cover let­ter writ­ten by Bri­tain’s EU am­bas­sador Tim Bar­row made clear that the Brexit de­lay re­quest let­ter was only be­ing sent to com­ply with the law.

Tusk con­sults EU chiefs

“I will now start con­sult­ing EU lead­ers on how to re­act,” Tusk said on Twit­ter.

An EU source told AFP that the process “may take a few days” and de­clined to com­ment on the non-sig­na­ture.

A Down­ing Street spokes­woman said the prime min­is­ter had spo­ken to Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel, French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron and Tusk.

Dutch Prime Min­is­ter Mark Rutte said he had dis­cussed the sit­u­a­tion with John­son and “wished him suc­cess in the next stages” in the Com­mons.

Be­ing forced to send the let­ter af­ter Satur­day’s de­feat was a blow to John­son, who has pre­vi­ously said he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than pro­long the tor­tu­ous process of end­ing Bri­tain’s 46-year-old mem­ber­ship of the EU.

Brus­sels urged Bri­tain to ex­plain its plan as soon as pos­si­ble, while Macron’s of­fice said a new de­lay to Brexit was “in no­body’s in­ter­est.”

John­son beaten 322-306

Se­cur­ing the new di­vorce treaty at Thurs­day’s EU sum­mit had been a per­sonal vic­tory for the prime min­is­ter, a fig­ure­head in the Leave cam­paign in Bri­tain’s 2016 EU mem­ber­ship ref­er­en­dum.

He had spent 48 hours fran­ti­cally try­ing to per­suade MPs to back it, and won sup­port from many of the euroscep­tic Con­ser­va­tives who had three times re­jected a pre­vi­ous di­vorce agree­ment se­cured by his pre­de­ces­sor Theresa May.

But par­lia­ment — like the frus­trated pub­lic — is still bit­terly di­vided over how and even whether Bri­tain should end decades of in­te­gra­tion with its clos­est trad­ing part­ner.

MPs voted by 322 to 306 to back a mo­tion by former Con­ser­va­tive min­is­ter Oliver Letwin that “with­holds ap­proval (of the deal) un­less and un­til im­ple­ment­ing leg­is­la­tion is passed.”

They were meet­ing on a Satur­day for the first time since the 1982 Falk­lands War.

While MPs voted in­side par­lia­ment, out­side, more than 100,000 peo­ple marched to de­mand a new ref­er­en­dum that could re­verse Brexit.

Demon­stra­tors erupted into cheers at the news from in­side the Com­mons.

“That’s re­ally good, that’s one step away from Brexit,” demon­stra­tor Philip Dob­son told AFP.

“Re­ject Brexit,” “Put It To The Peo­ple” and “Stop This Mad­ness” read some of the plac­ards at the mass march, where many pro­test­ers also waved EU flags.

Leg­is­la­tion this week

The British govern­ment will in­tro­duce leg­is­la­tion this week to im­ple­ment the di­vorce deal, with a first vote as soon as Tues­day.

The govern­ment also wants an­other vote on the deal on Mon­day, which may not be pos­si­ble.

There is a chance the deal could pass, and Bri­tain could still leave the EU on Oct. 31, but there re­mains strong op­po­si­tion to the agree­ment among MPs.

Reuters-Yon­hap

EU sup­port­ers re­act dur­ing a march in Lon­don, Satur­day, af­ter learn­ing that British law­mak­ers voted for a key amend­ment to force British Prime Min­is­ter Boris John­son to seek an­other Brexit ex­ten­sion from the Euro­pean Union.

AFP-Yon­hap

A video grab from footage broad­cast by the U.K. Par­lia­ment’s Par­lia­men­tary Record­ing Unit (PRU) shows Bri­tain’s Prime Min­is­ter Boris John­son re­acts as Bri­tain’s main op­po­si­tion Labour Party leader Jeremy Cor­byn speaks on a point of order af­ter the House of Com­mons in Lon­don voted to back an amend­ment in the name of former Con­ser­va­tive MP Oliver Letwin which de­lays the de­ci­sion on the Brexit deal.

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