Friday 18 October 2019

Explainer: What is the Brexit latest, will Boris Johnson ask for an extension and is any progress being made?

Frustrating: Boris Johnson. Picture: PA
Frustrating: Boris Johnson. Picture: PA
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has already been to Luxembourg for talks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. So what's happening now?

What is happening this week?

Already British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been to Luxembourg for talks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

Today the drama moves to the UK Supreme Court, which will hear appeals about whether Mr Johnson's decision to prorogue Parliament was legal after a Scottish court said it was unlawful.

Meanwhile, you can expect lots of rhetoric as the party conference season is under way in the UK.

Is any progress being made?

The two sides are still telling very different tales about whether there is movement. The European Commission says London had still not proposed an alternative to the Irish backstop that has stymied a Brexit deal, giving a more downbeat view of the meeting between Mr Juncker and Mr Johnson.

However, Downing Street said it had been agreed at the Luxembourg lunch that talks to find a deal would intensify.

What's the mood in Europe?

There appears to be a growing sense of frustration with the way Mr Johnson is handling the situation. He met Luxembourg's Prime Minister Xavier Bettel yesterday as well - but then refused to take part in a press conference. Mr Bettel stood beside an empty podium as he fielded questions from the media. "Don't make the EU the bad guy," he said, while warning that a Brexit extension would not be granted for the sake of it.

Will Mr Johnson ask for a Brexit extension if a deal is ready for October 31?

The prime minister told Mr Juncker he will not ask for a delay to Brexit. This would put him in direct conflict with the will of the House of Commons, which passed a law demanding that he must seek an extension rather than pursue no deal. Mr Johnson's position remains that the UK will leave at Halloween with or without a divorce deal.

What about rumours of a breakthrough on a Northern Ireland-only backstop?

Watch this space. There is little detail on what this would involve, but this is definitely the direction of travel. Whether the DUP can be brought on side remains to be seen.

Irish Independent

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