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Johnson Doubles Down on Oct. 31 No-Deal Divorce: Brexit Update

Alex Morales

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Boris Johnson doubled down on his pledge to take Britain out of the European Union on Oct. 31 without a deal if necessary, two days after it emerged he’d promised to obey a law forcing him to send a letter requesting a delay if he can’t get an agreement with the bloc.

The U.K. premier’s latest promise to deliver Brexit in an op-ed in The Sun on Sunday comes as he tries to persuade the EU to negotiate a new deal along the lines of the one he proposed during the week. It envisaged keeping Northern Ireland in regulatory alignment with the Republic of Ireland, so long as the region’s political leaders agree to it every four years.

But the EU so far has pushed back, and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has suggested Friday is a “reasonable” deadline for Johnson to come up with revised proposals.

Key Developments:

Johnson says Brexit will happen on Oct. 31Ireland says “reasonable” to expect revised Brexit plans from U.K. by FridayFinnish Premier doesn’t see solutions in time for Brexit deadlineLabour says Johnson can’t circumvent law

Johnson, Macron Speak by Phone (4:30 p.m.)

Johnson spoke on Sunday by phone with Emmanuel Macron, the French president’s office said in a text message. Macron told Johnson that Brexit talks must continue apace, with an assessment to be made by the end of the week on whether an agreement is possible that respects EU principles of maintaining the integrity of the single market and protecting the Irish peace process, his office said.

Finland Doesn’t See Solutions Agreed by Oct. 31 (10:29 a.m.)

Finnish Prime Minister Antti Rinne, who holds the EU’s rotating presidency, said he doesn’t expect a proposal from Downing Street that could hold water in the two weeks before the Oct. 17-18 summit in Brussels.

“It seems that Johnson has only now realized what a huge mess this is and has difficulties making a proposal that he can push through,” Rinne told Germany’s Welt am Sonntag newspaper. “So I fear that at the October summit, it could be more about an extension than concrete solutions.”

Rather than risk a no-deal Brexit, Rinne said he would be prepared to consider a request to extend negotiations beyond Oct. 31.

Separately, Rinne on Saturday spoke by phone with Johnson, according to a statement from the Finnish premier. Rinne said he told his U.K. counterpart to put forward written proposals, but that the current plans don’t meet EU goals of protecting the Irish peace process and EU unity or of maintaining a “well-functioning internal market.”

Barclay Suggests U.K. Can Move in Talks (10 a.m.)

Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay suggested on the BBC TV’s “Andrew Marr“ show on Sunday that there is scope for the U.K. to alter its position in discussions with the European Union on the issues of customs checks between Ireland and Northern Ireland, and the principle of consent, whereby politicians in Northern Ireland would have an effective veto over regulatory alignment with the EU.

“We’ve set out a broad landing zone,” he said when asked about customs checks post-Brexit. “In the detail of the negotiation of course we can get into detail as to how operationally they work.”

On the issue of consent, Barclay said the principle is “key,” but that how it’s done can be discussed. “Of course in the mechanism as part of the intensive negotiations, we can look at that,” he said.

Labour Says Johnson Can’t Circumvent Benn Act (9:45 a.m.)

There’s no way for Boris Johnson to circumvent the law passed by Parliament requiring him to delay Brexit if he can’t get a deal or approval for a no-deal Brexit through the House of Commons, Labour’s shadow attorney-general, Shami Chakrabarti, told BBC TV on Sunday.

The law, known as the Benn Act, “was drafted with great care after a great deal of cooperation across the House of Commons,” Chakrabarti said. “It’s very, very specific and explicit about personal duty on the prime minister.”

At the same time, Chakrabarti said Johnson speaks “with a forked tongue,” making promises to a Scottish court on Friday that he would write the letter required of him by the law, and saying another thing in broadcast interviews. “He seems to have a very casual relationship with the law. He seems to think that he’s above the law,” she said. But, she warned that attempts to undermine an extension request would be unlawful.

“If you send the letter as you are required to under the law and then seek to undermine it by other means, you have not kept faith with the law,” she said. “You have not fulfilled your specific statutory duty to seek an extension. That would be unlawful conduct on his part.”

Latvia: EU Has Little Wiggle Room (9:30 a.m.)

The European Union has little room for maneuver in negotiating a new Brexit deal, Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins said Sunday in a BBC television interview, while adding that he thinks a deal can be done by Oct. 31.

The difficulty in getting 27 nations to agree to big changes to the existing deal means that “the EU doesn’t have a whole lot of wiggle room,” Karins said. Still, “we are open to working for a real compromise.”

Nevertheless, Karins indicated that the time pressure of the current deadline may end up working in favor of getting an agreement. “Sometimes when you’re down to the wire, some decisions can be made more quickly than when you’re not down to the wire.”

Johnson Not Winning Over Labour Opponents (8:55 a.m.)

The Prime Minister isn’t making any headway in winning over Members of Parliament from the opposition Labour Party, even those that have said they want to be able to support a Brexit deal. One of those MPs, Lisa Nandy, told Sky News on Sunday that all Johnson has done is alienate people like herself.

“I could support a deal, I would support a deal,” Nandy said. “The problem is at the moment that we don’t have a deal. What we’ve got is a proposal which stands virtually no chance of being accepted by the EU.”

Nandy said she wants to see promises on future workers’ rights and the environment –- negotiated by Labour with Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, incorporated into legislation and put before a vote in the House of Commons. But, she said, Johnson hasn’t engaged with her or her colleagues.

“For all of this talk about getting Brexit done, he doesn’t seem to be serious at all about trying to agree a cross-party deal and move us forwards,” Nandy said. “From the word go he’s alienated those MPs that he would need to rely on to get a deal.”

We’ll Seek No Brexit Extension: Minister (8:47 a.m.)

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick on Sunday stuck firmly to the prime minister’s line that the government will deliver Brexit on time.

“This government has no intention of extending Article 50,” he told Sky News on Sunday, referring to the treaty clause under which Britain is negotiating Brexit. “All of our efforts now are focused on trying to get a deal.”

He dismissed as “tittle tattle” the notion that the government might be trying to persuade another EU nation to veto any extension request that comes from the U.K. “I’ve not heard any serious talk of that beyond the speculation that I’ve seen in the papers,” he said.

U.K. Leaves EU in 25 Days, Johnson Says (Earlier)

The U.K. will be leaving the European Union on Halloween as planned, regardless of whether the EU accepts the U.K.’s latest offer for a deal, Johnson wrote in The Sun on Sunday newspaper.

“We will be packing our bags and walking out on Oct. 31,” Johnson wrote in the paper. “The only question is whether Brussels cheerily waves us off with a mutually agreeable deal, or whether we will be forced to head off on our own.”

He said his plans represent Britain “jumping to the island in the middle of the river,” and now the EU must join it from the other side.

The statement is at odds with court documents released on Friday that showed the premier has committed to send a letter seeking a delay to Brexit, as compelled to by the Benn Act, a piece of legislation passed by his Parliamentary opponents in September. Under that law, he has until Oct. 19 to secure a deal or persuade Parliament to accept a no-deal departure. Failing that, he must seek a delay.

Cox Told Johnson to request Extension: Mail (Earlier)

Attorney General Geoffrey Cox told Johnson he’d quit his post if the premier didn’t abide by the law requiring him to delay Brexit if he doesn’t have a deal by Oct. 19, the Mail on Sunday reported, without saying were it got the information.

Paper: Johnson to Sabotage EU if Forced Into Delay (Earlier)

Johnson plans to sabotage the running of the European Union if he’s forced into seeking a delay to Brexit, the Sunday Telegraph reported, citing two unidentified cabinet ministers. Measures could involve blocking the EU’s seven-year budget, and sending a Euroskeptic commissioner to Brussels, with Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage mooted as a contender, the newspaper said.

Varadkar Wants New Proposals by Friday (Earlier)

Ireland’s Prime Minister Leo Varadkar pointed to Friday as a “reasonable” deadline for an improved offer from the U.K. to break the Brexit impasse, as the deadlock over the Irish border continued.

Speaking to reporters in Dublin on Saturday, he said the ideas submitted by Prime Minister Boris Johnson fell short of providing the basis for deeper negotiations before leaders gather on Oct. 17 to consider the state of play on Brexit.

“Plenty of time” remains for the U.K. to come up with a better plan, Varadkar said, adding Friday isn’t an “absolutely rigid” deadline. “If you know over the next 24 hours, an extra 48 hours are needed, we’re not going to give up on the prospects of the deal over that.”

Johnson to Challenge Queen to Fire Him: S. Times (Earlier)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is prepared to challenge Queen Elizabeth II to dismiss him rather than resign as he attempts to push through Brexit by the Oct. 31 deadline, the Sunday Times reported, citing senior aides.

Johnson would not step aside if his Brexit proposals were rejected by the European Union, and even if members of the U.K. Parliament declare no confidence in his government and agree to a caretaker prime minister to replace him, according to the report.


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--With assistance from Peter Flanagan, Robert Hutton, Dominic Lau, Patrick Donahue, Frances Schwartzkopff and Helene Fouquet.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Morales in London at amorales2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, James Amott, Andrew Davis

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