No ex­ten­sion with­out new ref­er­en­dum or elec­tion, EU in­sists

The Daily Telegraph - - Front page - By James Crisp, Anna Mikhailova and Peter Fos­ter

BRI­TAIN will be granted a Brexit ex­ten­sion by the EU only if it agrees to hold a gen­eral elec­tion or a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum, it emerged last night.

David Sas­soli, the pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment, set out the con­di­tion yes­ter­day dur­ing a de­bate in Brus­sels. Mr Sas­soli re­vealed he had dis­cussed the plans di­rectly with John Ber­cow, the Speaker of the House of Com­mons, in Lon­don on Tues­day.

He told the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment: “I had a fruit­ful dis­cus­sion with Speaker Ber­cow in which I set out my view that any re­quest for an ex­ten­sion should al­low the British peo­ple to give their views in a ref­er­en­dum or an elec­tion.”

Amélie de Montchalin, France’s Europe min­is­ter, backed the plan. “If there are new elec­tions or a ref­er­en­dum, if there is a po­lit­i­cal shift lead­ing us to be­lieve we could have a dif­fer­ent di­a­logue from the one we have to­day, then an ex­ten­sion can be dis­cussed,” she said.

Boris John­son has re­peat­edly called for a gen­eral elec­tion, but has been thwarted by Re­main-back­ing MPS who say they will vote for one only if he de­lays Brexit. The ne­go­ti­a­tions over his pro­posed deal are ex­pected to come to a con­clu­sion in the next 24 hours.

Last night it was re­vealed that Jeremy Cor­byn would be will­ing to grant Mr John­son a gen­eral elec­tion on Nov 26 if the Prime Min­is­ter fails to de­liver Brexit this month. Ac­cord­ing to The

Sun, Mr Cor­byn will agree to a poll if Mr John­son tables a vote for it on Oct 21.

To­day the Prime Min­is­ter trav­els to Cheshire to meet Leo Varad­kar, his Ir­ish coun­ter­part. Un­less an agree­ment on the Ir­ish bor­der is reached, it is ex­pected talks with the EU will for­mally con­clude to­mor­row morn­ing, at which point Mr John­son is ex­pected to at­tempt to leave with no deal on Oct 31.

His plan is ex­pected to be op­posed by a “rebel al­liance” of Re­main-back­ing MPS in the Com­mons. In to­day’s Daily

Tele­graph, Philip Ham­mond un­veils his al­ter­na­tive pro­posal. The for­mer chan­cel­lor sug­gests abol­ish­ing the all-uk back­stop by ask­ing Europe to move im­me­di­ately to free trade ne­go­ti­a­tions with Great Bri­tain, leav­ing North­ern Ire­land in its own back­stop.

The plan would see Bri­tain in an EU trade ar­range­ment built on a cus­toms union and full align­ment with the EU’S sin­gle mar­ket.

“It’s im­por­tant we send a mes­sage to Brus­sels that the well isn’t run dry of ideas; that there is still a deal to be done and that deal doesn’t have to be dic­tated by hard­lin­ers on ei­ther side,” Mr Ham­mond said. Yes­ter­day EU lead­ers at­tacked the Prime Min­is­ter as they in­ten­si­fied the Brexit “blame game”.

First, reports emerged that the EU was pre­pared to make an of­fer of a North­ern Ire­land-only back­stop to break the dead­lock. But Iain Dun­can Smith, the for­mer Tory leader, ac­cused the EU of “to­kenism”, say­ing: “This is about shift­ing blame to Boris John­son.”

Guy Ver­hof­s­tadt, the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment’s Brexit co­or­di­na­tor, branded Boris John­son a “traitor” for try­ing to force a no-deal Brexit. “It is a blame game against ev­ery­body,” he said. “The only one who is not to be blamed is Mr John­son, ap­par­ently. All those who are not play­ing his game are traitors, are col­lab­o­ra­tors, are sur­ren­der­ers. The real traitor is he or she who risks bring­ing dis­as­ter on his coun­try,

its econ­omy and its cit­i­zens by push­ing Bri­tain out of the Euro­pean Union.”

Nigel Farage, leader of the Brexit Party, said of the meet­ing be­tween Mr Ber­cow and Mr Sas­soli: “All rules of im­par­tial­ity and de­cency are be­ing abandoned by our po­lit­i­cal class.”

Belinda De Lucy, a Brexit Party MEP, said Mr Sas­soli had no right to talk to the Speaker, say­ing: “It ex­poses your in­ten­tions to in­ter­vene at all lev­els to stop Brexit. It is im­moral; shame on you.”

A Euro­pean Par­lia­ment of­fi­cial said, “Sas­soli was in three cap­i­tals in three days; Lon­don, Ber­lin and Paris. In each one he met the head of state or govern­ment and the speaker of the house.”

Last night Jeremy Hunt, the for­mer for­eign sec­re­tary, ac­cused the EU of mak­ing the “same mis­takes over and over again”. In an open let­ter to EU 27 min­is­ters, Mr Hunt said they were mak­ing a “cat­a­strophic mis­cal­cu­la­tion” by re­fus­ing to en­gage with Mr John­son.

To­day Jeremy Cor­byn will de­clare Labour is ready for a gen­eral elec­tion. In a speech in Northamp­ton he will call Mr John­son’s de­ci­sion to have a Queen’s Speech on Mon­day a “cyn­i­cal stunt” and a “farce”. Last night Tony Blair said an­other ref­er­en­dum was the only way to end the Brexit im­passe.

Mr Farage said run­ning an elec­tion on a “no deal” plat­form would gain Mr John­son “many votes” from his party.

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