Boris JohnsonBrexitEUPoliticiansPoliticsThe Conservatives

Dress it up how you like, Boris sent the letter

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.

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6 thoughts on “Dress it up how you like, Boris sent the letter

  1. Johnson has made it clear to the EU that the letter is from Parliament, not from the Government. The EU has repeatedly said that it will negotiate only with Governments. Unless the EU is prepared to break its own rules (a low bar I know), they must regard the letter as irrelevant.

  2. In one of the other letters Johnson sent, he wrote “It is, of course, for the European Council to decide when to consider the request and whether to grant it”:
    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7592073/Boris-Johnson-sends-THREE-letters-EU-one-urge-Brussels-NOT-grant-delay.html

    So he has given the EU permission to regard this as an official letter from the government (which it is, despite him not signing it). And the EU will treat it that way, be under no illusions about that.

    If the EU wants to offer an extension, it will offer one. The question now is, will Johnson refuse it?

  3. Another problem is this wretched transition period. The EU can extend it and the ECJ has the say so not an independent arbitrator. It’s a terrible deal as it is based on May’s surrender treaty. It must not pass. Only a No Deal gets us out of the EU cleanly.

  4. The surrender act told Boris to send the letter. It didn’t specify how the letter must be sent. I don’t see anything in the surrender act that forbids him giving the letter to a trusted person and instructing that person to walk to Brussels. 10 to 15 miles per day, 220(ish) miles, the letter would have arrived in early November.

  5. Nice one Frank. Although I now think that all these ruses wouldn’t have done anything, as the EU would have offered the extension anyway, so really it comes down to whether Boris agrees any extension offered.

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