Europe accepts Brexit postponement by 31 January 2020

An anti-Brexit protester in front of the London Parliament on 25 October.
An anti-Brexit protester in front of the London Parliament on 25 October. Henry Nicholls / REUTERS

After some hesitation, especially in the French camp, the Europeans finally accepted on Monday, October 28, a compromise for a shift of Brexit to January 31, 2020. An offset " flexible " : The UK will be able to leave the European Union sooner if it is ready, and if the Johnson government succeeds in getting the UK Parliament to finally adopt the implementing law in the national law of its agreement with Brussels.

In a TweetOn Monday morning, Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, confirmed the information:

"The Twenty-Seven have accepted the British request for a postponement of the flexible Brexit to 31 January 2020. The decision must be formalized by written procedure (without the need for a special EU summit). "

France remained until now very reluctant to face the prospect of this third postponement, this time of three months, in the absence of any assurance that, on the British side, that period of time would be used "Usefully" – to organize, for example, general elections. A decision should have been taken Friday, October 25 in Brussels, but Paris demanded to wait for the result of the vote in the House of Commons, Monday night, on possible early elections on December 12.

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A compromise was finally reached this weekend, after, in particular, a phone call between Emmanuel Macron and Boris Johnson. And "The increasing number of calls for elections in London", says a French source World. It must be said that a European decision was urgent, three days of Brexit "by default", still scheduled for October 31. France had absolutely no desire, by a possible veto, to precipitate the whole Union in this type of unknown.


It's about "To preserve unity at 27 Adds this hexagonal source. Paris has obtained guarantees: the Europeans should specify black on white that there is no question of renegotiating the divorce agreement obtained with Boris Johnson mid-October. The Europeans have already spent almost a year and a half negotiating a first deal with Theresa May, which they finally agreed to reopen for her successor at Downing Street (mostly on the issue of Northern Ireland). But the patience of the leaders and diplomats is exhausted, in Brussels as in capitals, including Berlin.

Europeans also insist on the need for the United Kingdom, as long as it is not out of the EU, to appoint a European Commissioner for the new Von der Leyen Commission. An obligation with no major political consequences for London: the new college of commissioners was to take office this early November, but after the rejection of three candidacies (including that of the French Sylvie Goulard) by the European Parliament, it will not be ready before, at best, the 1st December.

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Will this decision of the Twenty-Seven help the British get out of the political impasse in which they find themselves? The first response is tonight, with a likely vote in the House of Commons on early general elections in December. Boris Johnson will try to pass a motion for a poll December 12. That would leave the members (and the Lords) another big week, by November 6, to continue to review, and possibly finally adopt, their divorce agreement. The latter got a positive vote on second reading on 22 October.

Another bill for early elections on December 9

But this motion is very unlikely to be adopted, the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, law dating from 2011, claiming a two-thirds majority of Commons (434 votes) to trigger an early general election. But Labor, the second largest political force in the country, have shown no enthusiasm in recent days for such elections, polls predicting a delay in comparison with the Conservatives. Their leader, Jeremy Corbyn, insisted on this point just before the weekend: the risk of "no deal" must have completely disappeared for him to support an election in December.

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On the other hand, the liberal-democrats (LibDem) and Members of the Scottish National Party (SNP) are urged, they, to garner in the polls the benefits that the polls lend to their radical positions (the revocation of Brexit, for the first, the Scottish independence for the second). They could save the day for Johnson: Jo Swinson, the leader of LibDem, and Ian Blackford, leader of the SNP in the House of Commons, drafted a bill calling for an early election on December 9.

This text allows to circumvent the law Fixed-Term Parliaments and only needs a simple majority in the Commons (320 votes) to be adopted. "We understand from our European contacts that (our proposal) has given them confidence: if they guarantee a Brexit deadline, the time granted will be well used ", said Mme Swinson at the BBC Monday morning.

If the Prime Minister and his Conservative side support him, this bill has every chance. The only problem for Downing Street is that the Liberal Democrats are demanding that, in exchange, Johnson abandon his ambition to adopt his divorce agreement in Westminster just before the start of the election campaign.

Read the editorial of October 21st: Brexit, finish with a bad soap opera


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