It doesn’t matter that he sent it as an unsigned photocopy. That’s just theatre. Perhaps he sent it all smudged, and dog-bitten, with annotations, and by second-class post. But the important fact is that he sent it. All the talk from his team about clever ways to get around the Benn act in the end amounted to just not signing it, which the EU will ignore.
I don’t want to seem like I’m blaming Boris too much, though. He has a terrible hand. It’s still the traitors I blame and loathe. They will burn Parliament down if they have to. I’d like to say so will we, but clearly the Leave public is not going down that route.
However, it may be that the whole requesting-an-extension shenanigans was irrelevant. It hasn’t really been commented on, but the more important part of the Benn bill (aka the Benn-Burt bill) is that Johnson must accept any EU offer to extend:
3 Duties in connection with Article 50 extension
(1) If the European Council decides to agree an extension of the period in Article 50(3) of the Treaty on European Union ending at 11.00 pm on 31 October 2019 to the period ending at 11.00pm on 31 January 2020, the Prime Minister must, immediately after such a decision is made, notify the President of the European Council that the United Kingdom agrees to the proposed extension.
(2) If the European Council decides to agree an extension of the period in Article 50(3) of the Treaty on European Union ending at 11.00pm on 31 October 2019, but to a date other than 11.00pm on 31 January 2020, the Prime Minister must, within a period of two days beginning with the end of the day on which the European Council’s decision is made, or before the end of 30 October 2019, whichever is sooner, notify the President of the European Council that the United Kingdom agrees to the proposed extension.
I’m guessing that the EU could have offered an extension even if Johnson didn’t ask for it, and it seems like the Benn bill requires Johnson to accept that extension, even if he didn’t ask for the extension. (The bill doesn’t actually deal with that eventuality, but I expect Remain lawyers would argue that Johnson has to accept the extension regardless of how it originates.)
So perhaps the real issue is not whether Johnson would ask for an extension, but whether he would sign off on any extension the EU agrees (assuming the EU does offer an extension). He could be a total hero and just refuse to sign it (and risk going to jail), and at that point it may be too late for Parliament to act, and so we get out, with a clean Brexit to boot.
However, my more down-to-Earth assumption is that he won’t do this. He will accept any extension offer that the EU makes. And they will make one if no deal has been agreed. Don’t fall for the pretence that they’re not going to offer another extension; they will.
Meanwhile the other parties will be burning their bridges with ordinary voters, so Johnson and Cummings will be happy with that. The shitness of the latest deal is getting little press, the Brexit Party is being sidelined, Labour and the LibDems are looking like madmen, so this is all good news for the Conservatives in the medium term.