Monday 23 September 2019

PM plans to 'sabotage' any hope of getting EU extension

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: AFP/Getty
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: AFP/Getty
Quit: Amber Rudd says the loss of moderates is not confined to the Tory party. Photo: Peter Nicholls/ REUTERS

Owen Bennett and Harry Yorke

Boris Johnson has drawn up plans to attempt to "sabotage" any Brexit extension without breaking the law.

The British government believes today's vote on a general election is the "last chance" for MPs to block a no-deal Brexit.

The prime minister's key advisers held a meeting yesterday to thrash out moves to scupper Parliament's efforts to force a three-month Brexit extension if no new deal is agreed.

One plan under serious consideration would see the prime minister send a letter to the EU alongside the request to extend Article 50, setting out that the UK government does not want any delay beyond October 31.

Last night, a cabinet source revealed: "There is a prescribed letter that has to be sent... Does that stop the prime minister sending other documents to the EU? I don't think it does.

"A political explainer, perhaps, as to where the government's policy is. It has to make clear that the government is asking for an extension, but let's not forget what the next step is. Once that is done, the Europeans are going to ask why? What is the reason?

"[What] if the government said 'we don't have any reasons for an extension'?

"There is a clear path now: the Europeans need to refuse an extension."

Yesterday, Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French foreign minister, said "in the current circumstances" France would not support an extension, adding: "We can't keep going through this every three months."

A Downing Street source said: "We intend to sabotage any extension. The 'Surrender Bill' only kicks in if an extension is offered. Once people realise our plans, there is a good chance we won't be offered a delay.

"Even if we are, we intend to sabotage that too."

The source added: "[Today] is the last chance for Corbyn to be prime minister and negotiate his delay at Brussels on October 17-18. If he opposes the people having their say in an election on October 15, then MPs should realise they may not be able to stop no deal.

"The MPs will be sent home this week and have no further chance to shape negotiations on October 17."

MPs could be sent home from Parliament as early as this evening following the vote on a general election as the government pushes ahead with its prorogation plan.

No 10 has until the end of Thursday to suspend Parliament until October 14.

Mr Johnson said last week that he would rather be "dead in a ditch" than ask for an extension, sparking speculation that he would flout the law. Sajid Javid, the UK chancellor, told the BBC the government "absolutely will not be asking for an extension" at the European Council summit on October 17 and 18.

When asked if that meant it would seek a delay after that date if a new Brexit deal had not been struck, as the legislation states, Mr Javid said: "We will obey all laws, because all governments should obey laws. Absolutely. But you'll have to wait and see what happens then."

Meanwhile, Amber Rudd, the Conservative Party minister who sensationally walked out on Mr Johnson at the weekend, has warned that moderates are being purged from mainstream parties in a move which could cost the Tories a majority at the next election.

She told the BBC's 'The Andrew Marr Show' her decision to quit as work and pensions secretary was influenced by the sacking of 21 Tory rebels, who she described as "good, moderate Conservatives".

She said she quit to "make the point that the Conservative Party should be a moderate party which accepts people with different views on the EU".

But allies of Mr Johnson defended the move, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab insisting he was "right to restore some discipline".

Mr Johnson last week sacked a slew of senior members of his own party, many of whom had served in top jobs. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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