UK PM sends unsigned letter requesting Brexit delay

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks at the House of Commons as parliament discusses Brexit, sitting on a Saturday for the first time since the 1982 Falklands War, in London, Britain, October 19, 2019, in this screen grab taken from video. Parliament TV via REUTERS

The British Prime Minister has sent a letter to EU Council President Donald Tusk reluctantly requesting an extension to the Brexit deadline.

This legal requirement on the Prime Minister followed a key vote on an amendment delaying the vote on the newly revised Brexit deal, forcing him to request an extension beyond October 31st.

Yesterday, MPs supported Conservative MP Oliver Letwin’s amendment by 322 votes in favour to 306 against. This amendment was make sure the Prime Minister abided by the recently passed Benn Act. Mr Johnson had until 23.00 (UK local time) to send the request.

The catch is that the letter, which was a photocopy of his delay request, was sent to Mr Tusk unsigned. Following this letter was a second one that was signed and indicated that Mr Johnson would not be requesting a delay. He believed doing so would be dangerous.

Mr Tusk has tweeted that he did receive the extension request and he would be discussing with the leaders of the 27 member states ‘on how to react.’

Prime Minister Johnson had previously outlined his defiance at a future delay from the EU, saying he would ‘rather be dead in a ditch’.

Those opposing the Prime Minister’s ‘do or die’ attitude towards the UK’s exit on October 31st has been that if he obstructs his obligations to make the request, he could face legal action.

Read more:

“Expect extension request next Saturday” – Johnson tells Tusk

Watch: Blow for Johnson’s deal as the House requests delay

The letters

According to the second letter, the government is intent on pushing for the revised Brexit deal to pass before the deadline.

Accompanying the first letter is a note from the UK’s representative to Brussels Tim Barrow, who writes that the first letter to Tusk does comply with the law recently agreed by Parliament.

Mr Johnson subsequently spoke to EU leaders explaining that the first letter was ‘Parliament’s letter, not my letter.’

Commentators in the UK believe the nature of the first letter brings the strong probability of leading to a Supreme Court decision.

‘Further delay is not a solution’

In Johnson’s second letter to Mr Tusk, he writes, ‘The UK Permanent Representative will… submit the request mandated by the EU (Withdrawal) (No.2) Act 2019 later today. It is, of course, for the European Council to decide when to consider this request and whether to grant it.’

‘Although I would have preferred a different result today, the Government will press ahead with ratification and introduce the necessary legislation early next week. I remain confident that we will complete that process by 31 October.’

‘While it is open to the European Council to accede to the request mandated by Parliament or to offer an alternative extension period, I have made clear since becoming Prime Minister… that a further extension would damage the interests of the UK and our EU partners, and the relationship between us.’

‘We must bring this process to a conclusion so that we can move to the next phase and build our new relationship on the foundations of our long history as neighbours and friends in this continent.’

In a subsequent letter to MPs, Johnson made it clear that the EU would likely reject the UK Parliament’s ‘request for further delay,’ and that he would, ‘not negotiate a delay.’

‘I will tell the EU what I have told the British public for my 88 days as prime minister: further delay is not a solution,’ Johnson wrote.

Opposition reacts

The Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said that Prime Minister Johnson had to obey the requirements of the law, ‘despite his petulant posturing and bluster he finally has – he’s asked for an extension.’

Change UK’s Anna Soubry called the Prime Minister a ‘truculent child’.

Ian Blackford, the SNP leader said that if Mr Johnson assumed that he could act ‘above the law’, he could be brought to court.

Credit: People’s Vote UK

Million person march

While the call for a delay loomed in the Parliament, an estimate one million people were marching to the Parliament demanding a second referendum on the Brexit withdrawal deal.