The EU was supposed to have announced today its decision on a Brexit extension. However, that decision has been delayed, possibly until Tuesday, as France has decided there must be a way forward.
For weeks I have suggested this outcome, but mainstream media rejected it, as did many of my own readers.
However, the theory can no longer be rejected.
“There is one country standing in the way – France,” a diplomat said.
Pressure Must Be Maintained
Please consider EU Delays Brexit Extension Decision as France Piles Pressure on MPs.
During a meeting of EU diplomats, the French ambassador stood alone in arguing that it was not the right time to agree a three-month delay, in a move that will be welcomed in Downing Street.
Only after the vote on Monday should the EU decide to “go short, to push for ratification, or long to accommodate a general election”, the ambassador told the other member states, according to a diplomatic note.
Sources close to the French president, Emmanuel Macron, later claimed an extension was “not a given” and needed to be justified. “But we have nothing of the sort so far”, the source said. “Pressure must be maintained.”
The prevarication in Brussels, and Macron’s swing behind Johnson’s strategy for getting a deal passed, will leave the issue of an extension in doubt with as little as 48 hours to go before the UK is due to leave.
Johnson has said he will give MPs until 6 November for further scrutiny of the withdrawal agreement bill if Labour accedes to his request for a general election on 12 December.
The 26 other member states are understood to have argued that France was playing a dangerous game by “playing ping-pong with the UK and reacting to every twist and turn”. “Let’s take a step back,” one diplomat said.
The delay is politically difficult for Jeremy Corbyn, who had said Labour would only vote in favour of a general election if the EU confirmed it would grant an extension to 31 January, taking a no-deal Brexit off the table.
"If the three-month extension to 31 January is offered, Johnson will have to agree to it. A different formulation would require parliament to pass a motion endorsing the extension request. Johnson would then need to formally agree to it with the EU by 30 October or within 48 hours, depending on which is earlier. "
It seems we have found another flaw, perhaps even the first one in the Benn Act.
Does a tiered extension quality as "different formulation"? I believe so.
Thus, the UK may have to do something within 48 hours, two days, not one, assuming the above statement is indeed accurate.
If Johnson can manage to delay until October 30, agreeing to the extension, it could be too late. And it will not be UK courts deciding. Rather it would be the EU.
What's behind Johnson's election gamble?
There is virtually no point in trying to make Brexit predictions. The single biggest factor to determine the outcome may well be a political miscalculation - by Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn, the EU, or some combination thereof. What is clear to us is that we will not get out of this mess until and unless the EU starts to attach conditions to an extension.
Developments in Westminster and Brussels are interacting with each other. There is an element of a chicken-and-egg going on. The Labour Party does not want to declare its position on an early election until it knows the EU's decision. Likewise, the EU wants to know whether Johnson's idea of a December 12 election could fly. The Council may not make its decision until after Monday's Commons vote.
The Times commentator Iain Martin, who normally supports the Tories, says that Number 10 may have completely missed the change in mood after it managed to secure a majority in the second reading of the withdrawal bill. Johnson should go through with it. We agree: this is now the best opportunity to deliver Brexit.
Labour demand ruling out No Deal. Labour will also demand a no-WTO agreement following acceptance of the Withdrawal Agreement.
And who the hell knows what Labour will demand once they get going?
They may demand a referendum, although that would fail.
We would thus expect the House of Commons to reject Johnson's December 12 election request, but to push for another date in the New Year instead. Johnson said in that case he would pull the withdrawal legislation, and would keep on reminding the electorate day-in and day-out that the Labour Party is running away from elections. The Commons, meanwhile, could in theory take control of the order papers once more and continue the legislative process regardless. They might dig up Theresa May's deal, which the opposition parties like better. The problem remains the second referendum. None of the opposition can accept a Brexit withdrawal agreement without a second referendum, but there is no majority for a referendum unless a number of Tory MPs formally change their position. That is perhaps the biggest danger of Johnson's high-stakes gamble. If he messes this up, and another 20 Tory MPs leave the party in order to support May's old bill, a second referendum would then become possible. We think the odds of that happening are very low, especially since everybody expects elections to happen soon.
The main purpose of Johnson's manoeuvre yesterday is to put pressure on the EU not to grant an unconditional three-month extension. We would not rule out that Johnson is coordinating with one of the EU leaders, perhaps Emmanuel Macron. The French president was never going to veto an extension, as some people either hoped or feared. But Macron and Johnson have a joint interest in an extension having political conditions attached. Labour's biggest problem might in the end turn out to be the EU.
Cannot Rule Out What Is Happening
We now have confirmation that Johnson is indeed coordinating with Macron, something many refused to believe could possibly happen.
Now France is saying "an extension is not a given” . That's something even I rejected, perhaps incorrectly.
Why Might France Buck the EU?
I have made the case many times. Let's recap.
- France is sick of this mess more than any other nation.
- France does not want the UK wrecking its policy in the European Parliament (EP). Perhaps Johnson even said that to Macron.
- France and Germany are at odds over many issues in the EP.
- France picks up EP seats once the UK leaves. Germany does not.
We do not know if France is buffing on No Deal. Nor does anyone else, except perhaps Johnson.
But if France withholds support until Tuesday, Labour is going to be damn well pressed to do something.
The Liberal Democrats and SNP will be even more pressed. After all, an election serves both SNP and Jo Swinson of the Liberal Democrats even more so.
Let's answer that with a question I have asked many time previously: If this is resolved before an election, what happens to the Liberal Democrat's Remain proposal?
Clearly it is dead in the water.
And what happens to the Brexit Party?
Finally, please note that Swinson cannot stand Corbyn. She has a second agenda of getting rid of him.
So, after seemingly everyone but me rejected the notion of an election announcement on Monday, it is now clearly in play.
It depends on whether Labour is will to call Macro's bluff, assuming of course, Macron is bluffing.
The date might not be Dec 12.
An election on January 9 with an extension until January 31 is more likely.
If France delays until the 29th, and the offer is not precisely an extension until January 31, Johnson might be able to force No Deal, and blame it on Labour.
This puts elections in play.
Meanwhile, Thank You France!
Mike "Mish" Shedlock