Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to defy a new law designed to stop him forcing the UK out of the European Union with no deal next month, and is braced for a fight to settle Brexit in the British courts.
According to a senior official in the UK government, Johnson has resolved on a hard-line plan as he prepares for his first face-to-face negotiations with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Monday.
The premier is vowing to do everything he can to secure a divorce deal with the EU and ratify it in Parliament before the deadline for leaving expires on October 31. But he will tell Juncker that there is just one month left to finalise that agreement and he won’t ask for a delay if the negotiations are fruitless. Johnson will say he’ll reject any extension to the deadline if one is offered by the EU’s other 27 leaders at a summit next month.
Instead, Johnson will ignore a new British law requiring him to ask the EU for Brexit to be postponed and prepare to fight his opponents — including opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn — in court.
“Don’t be fooled by Corbyn and the ringleaders — on the one hand they say I don’t want a deal, on the other they want to force me to extend,” Johnson said in a statement. “Both are wrong. I am straining to get a deal, but I will also end the uncertainty and take us out on the 31 October.”
In an interview with the Mail, Johnson said the UK will break out of its “manacles” like the comic-book character the Incredible Hulk.
The prime minister’s hardened stance dramatically raises the stakes in the UK’s political and constitutional crisis over its tortured exit from the EU.
After voting to leave the trading bloc in 2016, the country is no closer to completing the divorce in a way that avoids the chaos of a sudden rupture without an agreement to soften the blow.
The tactics used in that referendum are still causing controversy. Sunday saw newspapers publish the first extracts of the memoirs of David Cameron, prime minister at the time of the referendum, in which he criticises what he called the “liars” of the Leave campaign and said Johnson, one of the leaders of that camp, didn’t
believe in Brexit.
Three-and-a-half years on, members of parliament across the political spectrum have watched Johnson’s approach with growing alarm. He says he is determined to take the UK out of the EU with no deal if that is the only way to deliver Brexit on time. Earlier this month, MPs took matters into their own hands, inflicting a series of defeats on Johnson in an attempt to force him to moderate his strategy.
Former universities minister Sam Gyimah joined the Liberal Democrats, accusing the prime minister of “playing fast and loose” with the constitution. He’s the sixth lawmaker to move to the Lib Dems in recent weeks.
Under a new law passed by Parliament this month, against Johnson’s wishes, the prime minister must write to the EU to seek an extension if an agreement has not been agreed on by October 19 and Parliament hasn’t given consent to leaving without a deal.