EU grants Brexit ‘flextension’ as general election nears

#Brexit special section Westminster

The European Union has given the UK a three month Brexit “flextension” until January 31 in order to try and get a deal through parliament.

The extension comes as MPs prepare to vote today on whether to back the prime minister’s plans for a general election before Christmas.

Donald Tusk, president of the European Council made the announcement following a 30 minute meeting of European ambassadors, tweeting: “The EU 27 has agreed that it will accept the UK’s request for a new flextension until 31 January 2020. The decision is expected to be formalised through a written procedure.”

In theory, the extension allows for the UK to leave the EU on December 1 or January 1 if both sides ratify the treaty before those dates

General election with SNP and Lib Dems support

The extension has ramped-up expectation of an early general election to solve the Brexit stalemate in the Commons, with MPs voting on Boris Johnson’s calls for a December 12 poll on Monday.

A two-thirds majority of MPs supporting an early vote is required under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act. However, the government has already failed twice to win the 434 MP votes needed and are hoping they may be able to strike a deal with the Scottish National party and Liberal Democrats.

Both parties have agreed a plan for a poll on December 9 by virtue of a one-line Bill which could allow for a general election with a simple majority of MPs.

No deal – no election

Labour remain opposed to a general election until the prime minister unequivocally rules out the possibility of a no-deal Brexit.

Leader Jeremy Corbyn said the three month extension is not enough to trust the PM crashing the UK out of the EU without a deal “because it’s still there in his mind, it’s still there in the bill, and it’s still there as a threat.

“It’s got to be completely removed before we’ll support an election. We want an election as soon as that’s removed and it’s in his hands to do so.”

Stopping ‘a Trump Brexit’

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott told BBC’s Andrew Marr Show Johnson needs to give parliament an undertaking he will not force through a no-deal.

“But he won’t do that because coming out without a deal is something that people around him like Dominic Cummings would want, because then it becomes not just Brexit but a Trump Brexit,” said Abbott.

Today’s timetable

At 5pm MPs will debate and vote on the prime minister’s wish for a general election, requiring a super-majority of MPs’ support.

If the vote is lost, one-line bills will be introduced by the Lib Dems, SNP – or the Tories – for an election on December 9 or, as the government favours, December 12.

The one-line bill only requires a simple majority to pass.


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