PM stands firm against MPs
Johnson: ‘I will not negotiate further delay to Brexit deal’
PM: ‘the law does not compel me to write’
UPDATED SUN 20th: Boris Johnson has requested EU leaders grant a delay to Brexit, but immediately told them to ignore it.
The Prime Minister sent three letters to EU Council president Donald Tusk, complying with the requirement of the Benn Act, but making it clear he had no intention of negotiating a further Brexit delay with the EU.
The letters were posted after MPs backed an amendment in the Commons preventing his new deal being put to a Commons vote.
MPs supported the motion by former Cabinet minister Sir Oliver Letwin designed to rule out a no-deal exit and compelling the Prime Minister to abide by the Benn Act by asking for a three-month extension beyond 31 October.
But a clearly outraged Prime Minister responded: “I will not negotiate a delay with the EU and neither does the law compel me to do so.”
He said he did not believe the EU would be “attracted” by a further delay and his policy remained “unchanged”.
He added: “No delays, and I will continue to do all I can to get Brexit done on October 31.”
MPs voted by 322 votes to 306 to support the Letwin amendment and Mr Johnson complied by sending three letters to Mr Tusk.
The FIRST asked the EU to delay Brexit beyond the 31 October deadline – but was not signed by Mr Johnson – using the exact wording specified in the Benn legislation.
The SECOND was a covering letter, written by Sir Tim Barrow, the UK’s Permanent Representative in Brussels, which made clear that the first letter was from Parliament, not the Government.
The THIRD was a letter from Mr Johnson, which was also sent to the leaders of the other 27 EU nations, in which he disowned the contents of the first letter by making clear that he does not want any delay to Brexit and said any further hold-up would be ‘deeply corrosive’, and would ‘damage the interests of the UK and our EU partners’.
He said UK would continue to ratify the deal and urged Brussels to do the same.
Mr Tusk indicated that he has received the letters and would consult EU leaders on how to react, which may take a few days.
Boris Johnson is now attempting to scheme his way out of due process with childish manoeuvres– Ian Blackford, SNP
Mr Johnson was encouraged by French President Emmanuel Macron who said a further delay “is in nobody’s interest” after earlier stating that he would not agree to an extension.
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford earlier told Mr Johnson “you will find yourself in court” if he failed to send the letter. Following the despatch of the three letters, Mr Blackford said: “After being defeated on his extreme Brexit deal earlier, Boris Johnson is now attempting to scheme his way out of due process with childish manoeuvres.
“This is a Tory leader that is simply unfit for the office he holds.
“Boris Johnson is not above the law and if he does not fully abide by the Benn Act and secure an extension then we will see him in court. He has given the court an undertaking that he will not frustrate the purpose of the Benn Act – his latest antics suggest that is exactly what he intends to do.”
It was confirmed on Sunday that Scotland’s Supreme Court will meet at noon on Monday to consider the ongoing legal action seeking to ensure that the PM complies with the Benn Act.
Joanna Cherry QC and SNP MP said: “As well as promising to comply with the letter of the Benn Act the PM also promised not to seek to frustrate the purpose of the legislation. It will be for the court to decide whether his actions in failing to sign the letter of request and sending a letter setting out his contrary intentions are in breach of the undertakings he gave them or a contempt of court.”
The Prime Minister, who was hoping to get his deal over the line on Saturday, said it is not dead and he is expected to bring forward implementation legislation and hold a new vote, now likely to take place on Monday.
Sir Oliver insisted his amendment is only intended to head off the threat of No Deal by ensuring members of the European Reform Group stay on board.
Mr Johnson’s hopes of securing the 320 votes he needed to get the deal through was boosted when Tory backbencher Mark Francois said the ERG would support it.
Opinion polls showed the public demanding MPs supported Mr Johnson’s deal, while thousands demonstrated outside parliament demanding a second referendum.
Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom and No Deal minister Michael Gove were among MPs heckled by Remainer demonstrators as they left Parliament following the vote.
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott was also filmed being jeered at by pro-Brexit demonstrators.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn demanded the PM “obeys the law” and asks the EU for an extension.
“The Prime Minister must now comply with the law. He can no longer use the threat of a No Deal crash out to blackmail members to support his sell-out deal.
“I invite him to think very carefully about the remarks he just made about refusing, apparently, to apply for the extension which the EU no.2 Act requires him to do.”
Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson urged Speaker John Bercow to suspend the sitting so Mr Johnson could write the letter and inform the house it has been sent.
Ian Wright, chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation, said: “Everybody has had enough of the Brexit debate. It is, though, vital that we didn’t allow the fact that the nation is exhausted to mean we sleepwalk into mistakes that will haunt the UK economy for a generation.
“We welcome the Letwin amendment. The most urgent priority for the food and drink industry has been to prevent a no-deal exit from the EU on 31 October. The Letwin amendment does that job.
“We welcome more time to scrutinise the new Brexit deal and the legislation designed to enact it. We must also make sure the implementation period is adequate to pass the necessary UK legislation and for businesses to fully adapt.
“It is important that all of the consequences – including the damaging loss of frictionless trade and regulatory divergence with the EU that the new deal heralds – are properly understood before MPs make their decision.”
National Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) Mike Cherry said: “Many small business owners will groan with frustration at the continued uncertainty over a Brexit deal.
“But the important thing now is for MPs to focus next week on finding a way forward once and for all, which avoids leaving without a deal on 31 October and secures a transition period.
Mike Cherry: firms in limbo
“The prolonged period of uncertainty caused by the political stalemate has left small firms in limbo, with investment plans on hold and confidence low. This can’t drag on. The Government and Parliament must now work together to ensure there is a deal which secures sufficient time for small businesses to adapt to the longer-term arrangements with the EU.”
Dr Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “While the parliamentary drama continues, in the real world businesses wait anxiously for a clear outcome.
“Allowing the UK to slide toward a Halloween no-deal – whether by design or disarray – would be an act of economic and political negligence. As frustrating as it would be to many in business, a short extension to unlock a comprehensive solution and a smooth transition is still infinitely preferable to an overnight economic shock.”
Nigel Green, chief executive of deVere Group, one of the world’s largest independent financial advisory organisations, said: “These extraordinary goings-on extend and intensify the ongoing Brexit-fuelled uncertainty and chaos.
“The event of not-so-Super Saturday will negatively hit UK financial assets, major investment decisions will continue to be put on hold by companies and organisations, as will big-ticket spending items by households, and confidence and opportunity will continue to be undermined.
“This will, of course, all compromise the British economy.”
He added: “Much of the chaos has already been priced-in to the pound, so it will be to some degree shielded from the events in parliament today.”
Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said in an interview yesterday that the deal will boost growth and could be a turning point for the global economy.