Critics call on the Tory leader to “come clean” over his intentions as allies insist he remains committed to the divorce date.
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The prime minister has contradicted court documents submitted by his own government that say the UK will seek a Brexit extension from the EU if no withdrawal deal is reached.
At Scotland’s highest court papers were read out in which Boris Johnson accepted he must send a letter requesting a Brexit delay if there is no deal in place by 19 October.
But later in the day Mr Johnson tweeted: “New deal or no deal – but no delay.”
New deal or no deal – but no delay. #GetBrexitDone #LeaveOct31 ??
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) October 4, 2019
The prime minister has previously made a “do or die” pledge several times to get the UK out of the bloc on 31 October, with or without an agreement in place.
This is despite backbench legislation – known as the the Benn Act – committing him to request an extension if a deal is not secured following the European Council meeting in less than two weeks’ time.
Leo Varadkar said: “Brexit doesn’t end with the UK leaving, it’s just the next phase of negotiations but if the UK were to request an extension, we would consider it, but most EU countries would only consider it for good reason, but an extension would be better than no deal.”
A source confirms all this means is that Government will obey the law.
It does not mean we will extend.
It does not mean we will stay in the EU beyond Oct 31.
We will leave. https://t.co/LuVt45rMAr
— Steve Baker MP (@SteveBakerHW) October 4, 2019
In response to the court development, Steve Baker, the chairman of the European Research Group of hardline Tory Brexiteers, said: “A source confirms all this means is that government will obey the law.
“It does not mean we will extend. It does not mean we will stay in the EU beyond Oct 31. We will leave.”
Jolyon Maugham QC, who is one of those who brought the case at Edinburgh’s Court of Session, told Sky News: “What we learned today is that the prime minister has promised the court, in his own name, that he will ask for an extension under the Benn Act if the conditions are satisfied, in other words if parliament has not before 19 October agreed a withdrawal agreement.
“He’s also promised the court that he will not frustrate the Benn Act by which is meant that he will not send two letters, one saying can I have an extension, the other saying please don’t give me one, he won’t collude with foreign governments to attempt to persuade those foreign governments to veto an extension.”
What happens next and why you need to know
He added: “The prime minister’s playing a very odd game. It’s a very difficult game to understand because I think he told the House of Commons yesterday that we would leave come what may on 31 October, and I do not understand how that statement can be reconciled with the promises that he’s made to the court today.
“There is no way to square that circle. And he is going to have to come clean either to parliament or the court.”
Earlier, Home Office minister Brandon Lewis told Sky News: “We will follow the rule of law. We will abide by the law as we have said consistently. But we are going to leave on 31 October.
Listen to “Is Boris Johnson's new Brexit offer a game changer?” on Spreaker.
“I appreciate the follow up question to that is how do you do it.
“I am afraid as there is so many people, some in parliament as well, who seem determined to do all they can to frustrate Brexit, we are not going to tell them right now exactly what our plans are.
“That’s giving the other side your plans – I’m not sure is not a smart thing to do, particularly when at the moment our key focus is doing it the right way, which is getting a deal.”
His comments came as negotiations were expected to continue over the weekend as Mr Johnson tries to sell his fresh Brexit plan to Brussels.
European leaders have so far given his proposals a lukewarm reception, saying they were “unconvinced”.
EU Commission spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud said: “Michel Barnier debriefed (officials) yesterday, where Member States agreed that the UK proposals do not provide a basis for concluding an agreement.”
The PM is expected to embark on a tour of European capitals for face-to-face talks next week as well as continuing to speak by phone to counterparts.