Why couldn’t Boris just demand all sorts of things that the EU must do as part of the agreement to get an Article 50 extension, things which the EU would never agree to? Such as that all the leaders must wear clown suits every day for the duration of the extension period? Or that Macron must chop his own testicles off?
Or, to take some less silly examples, that the EU must agree that Britain has no remaining financial obligations towards the EU at all, and that the EU owes the UK 100 billion pounds for their share of the existing EU assets that the UK has helped pay for over the decades? That’s actually one that there are some grounds for thinking is true, and it would be reasonable – well, relatively reasonable – to demand. And, say, that Spain gives up all claims on Gibraltar for the rest of eternity, and will forfeit the Costa Brava to Britain if they ever utter a peep about it again. And that France agrees never to compete in the football World Cup again.
Okay, I’m starting to get silly again, but as far as I can gather there’s nothing in the bill which prevents this sort of approach. That means that the bill is not a water-tight way to guarantee an agreed extension.
No doubt if Boris did this and no agreement happened then we’d definitely see a no confidence vote in the government pass before the end of October. And if you thought things are a chaotic disaster now, wait until that happens.
Update: I’d have also thought that any agreement would involve the EU demanding that before Oct 31 the UK Parliament must be dissolved and a new election called for later in the year.
Update 2: The text of the Benn-Burt bill, otherwise known as the European Union (Withdrawal) (No.6) Bill , can be found here. There’s nothing in it that I can see that prevents Johnson making demands as part of the extension request. The relevant subsection is this:
The Prime Minister must seek to obtain from the European Council an extension of the period under Article 50(3) of the Treaty on European Union ending at 11.00pm on 31 October 2019 by sending to the President of the European Council a letter in the form set out in the Schedule to this Act requesting an extension of that period to 11.00pm on 31 January 2020.
And the text of the letter is this:
“Dear Mr President,
The UK Parliament has passed the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act 2019. Its provisions now require Her Majesty’s Government to seek an extension of the period provided under Article 50(3) of the Treaty on European Union, including as applied by Article 106a of the Euratom Treaty, currently due to expire at 11.00pm GMT on 31 October 2019, until 11.00pm GMT on 31 January 2020.
I am writing therefore to inform the European Council that the United Kingdom is seeking a further extension to the period provided under Article 50(3) of the Treaty on European Union, including as applied by Article 106a of the Euratom Treaty. The United Kingdom proposes that this period should end at 11.00pmGMT on 31 January 2020. If the parties are able to ratify before this date, the Government proposes that the period should be terminated early.
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”
What here prevents Johnson from asking for Portugal to become a British territory, with all the Portugese people to leave by Christmas, as part of the extension request?