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EU leaders rebuff Johnson by denying request for weekend Brexit talks

Johnson also repeated that he would not delay Brexit, despite his lawyers telling a Scottish court the opposite.

European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels yesterday.
European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels yesterday.
Image: Olivier Matthys/AP/Press Association Images

BORIS JOHNSON SAID that he will not delay Brexit, despite his lawyers saying he will comply with a law calling for the October 31 exit date to be postponed if there is no deal.

However, the chances of his new proposals succeeding were dealt a heavy blow by Brussels, as EU member states agreed they “do not provide a basis for concluding an agreement”.

The prime minister today accepted he must send a letter requesting a delay to Brexit beyond the Halloween deadline if no deal is agreed with Parliament by October 19, Scotland’s highest civil court heard.

But Johnson later said the options facing the country were his proposed new Brexit deal or leaving without an agreement, “but no delay”.

A European Commission spokesman said discussions between the two sides would not take place this weekend but the UK will be given “another opportunity to present its proposals in detail” on Monday.

“Michel Barnier debriefed the Permanent Representatives Committee yesterday, where member states agreed that the UK proposals do not provide a basis for concluding an agreement,” the spokesman added.

The prime minister has previously said “we will obey the law” but will also leave on October 31 in any circumstance, without specifying how he would achieve the apparently contradictory goals – fuelling speculation that he had identified a loophole to get around the Benn Act.

He has also declared he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than ask for a delay.

Any extension to the Article 50 process – the mechanism by which the UK leaves the European Union – would have to be agreed by all 27 other EU leaders.

Irish government

Speaking in Denmark today, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said if Boris Johnson submits a request for an extension, he would agree.

“I’ve always said that Brexit doesn’t end with the UK leaving, it’s just the next phase of negotiations, but if the UK were to request an extension, we would consider it, most EU countries would only consider it for good reason, but an extension would be better than no deal,” he said.

Varadkar was speaking alongside the Danish prime minister Mette Frederiksen, who also agreed to a Brexit extension, before he added that he still believes a deal is possible at the EU Council Summit in mid-October.

“Our focus is on securing an agreement and getting a deal at the EU Council Summit,” the Taoiseach added

Tánaiste Simon Coveney, who was in Hillsborough today to meet with Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Julian Smith, also rejected the idea that a deal was “mission impossible”.

“I believe it is possible to get a deal this month,” he said today. 

With additional reporting by Dominic McGrath

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