No extension without new referendum or election, EU insists
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.