Britain’s Brexit deadline abandoned
Both sides no longer recognise 15 October as the last day by which a deal can be struck
Today Downing St. appear to have given up on their previous commitment to end Brexit talks on Thursday if a deal has not been agreed. No.10 sources pushed back strongly on the idea that 15 October was the UK’s deadline by claiming that the date was set by Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator as the last chance for a deal to be struck.
Back in July, the EU said mid-October was the deadline for a deal as there was a planned European Council Summit but the fact that the UK picked 15 October as a firm end date for talks was mentioned in the Sunday Times which reported Boris Johnson telling European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen that “the UK will leave without a deal unless it looks like one is all but completed by October 15”. The UK’s apparent commitment to the October 15 deadline was also reported by the Mail online.
Doubts about whether the Government could even achieve a “Canada-style deal” without abandoning the Withdrawal Agreement wholesale were raised this week after a paper authored by eurosceptic lawyer Martin Howe QC and former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith MP suggested that by committing to the divorce deal agreed by Boris Johnson and the EU, Britain has abandoned the chance to achieve a meaningful Brexit.
Questions will be asked as to what Downing St hope to gain by continuing negotiations after the European Council has met, and whether this would give them the Council the opportunity to reset the terms of the talks. Perhaps No.10 believe they can cede the initiative to the Council and give Boris Johnson a way around Michel Barnier to secure a deal over the heads of the deadlocked negotiators. But Brexiteer MPs will be looking for a good reason from No. 10 as to why they have abandoned their commitment to end talks this week and why they continue to implement the Withdrawal Agreement despite the concerns raised by Eurosceptics.
Enjoying The Critic online? It's even better in print
Try five issues of Britain’s newest magazine for £10Subscribe