London: A defiant British government has doubled down, insisting it will leave the European Union in 11 days despite parliament’s forcing a reluctant prime minister to request another delay.
On a day of high drama on Saturday, MPs in the House of Commons passed up the chance to decide on the revised withdrawal agreement that Prime Minister Boris Johnson had negotiated with the European Union.
That defeat leaves Johnson under mounting pressure to find a way out of paralysing impasse on when and how Britain would leave the EU after the country narrowly voted to exit in a 2016 referendum.
Johnson has reluctantly sent European Council President Donald Tusk a letter legally imposed on him by parliament requesting an extension — but refused to sign it.
The Conservative leader sent a second, signed letter insisting he was not seeking an extension to the Brexit deadline, which has already been postponed twice, warning that “a further extension would damage the interests of the UK and our EU partners”.
Having failed to back a divorce deal, which Johnson had secured on Thursday, MPs triggered a law requiring him to write to EU leaders asking to delay Brexit to avoid the risk that Britain crashes out in less than a fortnight.
Senior cabinet minister Michael Gove, the government’s Brexit planning chief, was nonetheless adamant that Britain would leave the EU on schedule.
“Yes. We are going to leave on October 31. We have the means and the ability to do so,” he told Sky News.
Although Sterling fell on Monday, losses were limited by hopes the country can eventually avoid crashing out of the EU without a divorce agreement in place.
“We can say it (the pound) is holding firm, which shows hopes (for avoiding no-deal Brexit) have not been dashed,” Shinichiro Kadota, exchange strategist at Barclays Securities in Japan, told AFP. The government will bring forward this week the domestic legislation needed to implement the divorce deal, with a first vote as soon as Tuesday.
Separately, it is seeking a new yes-or-no vote on approving the deal on Monday, although this may fall foul of parliamentary procedure.
Commons Speaker John Bercow will rule on whether Johnson can hold a “meaningful vote” on the deal.
“If we get the legislation through then there is no extension. October 31 is within sight,” said Gove.
He said it was dangerous to assume that the 27 other EU leaders would grant an extension.