Brexit happens by end-October despite unsigned delay request: UK government

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s defeat in parliament over the sequencing of the ratification of his deal exposed him to a law passed by his opponents demanding he request a delay until Jan. 31. (Reuters)
Updated 20 October 2019

Brexit happens by end-October despite unsigned delay request: UK government

  • The Brexit maelstrom has spun wildly in the past week
  • The EU, which has grappled with more than three years of tortuous Brexit crisis, was clearly bewildered by the contradictory signals from London

LONDON: Britain will leave the European Union on Oct. 31 despite an unsigned letter that Prime Minister Boris Johnson was forced by his opponents to send to the bloc requesting a Brexit delay, the government said on Sunday.
The Brexit maelstrom has spun wildly in the past week between the possibility of an orderly exit on Oct. 31 with a deal that Johnson struck on Thursday and a delay after he was forced to ask for an extension late on Saturday.
Johnson’s defeat in the British parliament over the sequencing of the ratification of his deal exposed the prime minister to a law passed by his opponents demanding he request a delay until Jan. 31.
Johnson insisted he did not want what he cast as a deeply corrosive delay to Brexit beyond the Halloween deadline. One of his most senior ministers said Britain would still leave the bloc on Oct. 31.
“We are going to leave by October 31. We have the means and the ability to do so,” Michael Gove, the minister in charge of no-deal Brexit preparations, told Sky News.
“That letter was sent because parliament required it to be sent ... but parliament can’t change the prime minister’s mind, parliament can’t change the government’s policy or determination.”
In an extraordinary step that indicates the extent of the Brexit fever gripping the United Kingdom, Johnson sent three letters to Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council.
First, a brief cover note from Britain’s EU envoy explaining that the government was simply complying with the law; second, an unsigned photocopy of the text that the law, known as the Benn Act, forced him to write; and a third letter in which Johnson said he did not want an extension.
“I have made clear since becoming Prime Minister and made clear to parliament again today, my view, and the Government’s position, that a further extension would damage the interests of the UK and our EU partners, and the relationship between us,” Johnson said in the third letter, signed “Boris Johnson.”
The EU, which has grappled with more than three years of tortuous Brexit crisis, was clearly bewildered by the contradictory signals from London.
Tusk said he had received the request from Johnson.
“I will now start consulting EU leaders on how to react,” he said on Twitter.
French President Emmanuel Macron told Johnson that Paris needed swift clarification on the situation after Saturday’s vote, an official at the French presidency told Reuters.
“He (Macron) signaled a delay would be in no one’s interest,” the official said.
It was unlikely that the EU’s 27 remaining member states would refuse Britain’s delay request. Diplomats said on Sunday the bloc would play for time rather than rush to decide, waiting to see how things developed in London next week.
Johnson won the top job by staking his career on getting Brexit done by the latest deadline of Oct. 31 after his predecessor, Theresa May, was forced to delay the departure date. Parliament rejected her deal three times, by margins of between 58 and 230 votes earlier this year.
He had hoped to pass his own newly struck deal at an extraordinary sitting of parliament on Saturday but that was derailed by a legislative booby trap set by a rebel lawmaker concerned that Britain might still drop out without a deal.
Lawmakers voted 322 to 306 in favor of an amendment that turned Johnson’s planned finale on its head by obliging him to ask the EU for a delay, and increasing the opportunity for opponents to frustrate Brexit.
In his own signed letter to Tusk, Johnson said he was confident that the process of getting the Brexit legislation through Britain’s parliament would be completed before Oct. 31.
But the opposition Labour Party accused Johnson of acting as if he was above the law, and warned that the prime minister could end up in court.
Labour’s Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer said the party would put forward amendments to Johnson’s Brexit legislation, particularly aimed at closing the “trap door” to no-deal Brexit at the end of a transition period in December 2020.
Starmer also said an election was inevitable.
“He is being childlike. The law is very clear he should have signed one letter ... If we crash out, because of what he has done with the letters, in 11 days’ time without a deal he bears personal responsibility for that,” Starmer told BBC television.


Global coronavirus cases top 7 million as outbreak grows in Brazil, India — Reuters tally

Updated 06 June 2020

Global coronavirus cases top 7 million as outbreak grows in Brazil, India — Reuters tally

  • 2 million infections reported in United States alone
  • Deaths from the novel coronavirus approaching 400,000

Global cases of the novel coronavirus topped 7 million on Saturday, as case numbers surge in Brazil and India, according to a Reuters tally.
About 30% of those cases, or 2 million infections, are in the United States. Latin America has the second-largest outbreak with over 15% of cases.
Globally, deaths from the novel coronavirus are approaching 400,000.
The United States accounts for about one-quarter of all fatalities but deaths in South America are rapidly rising.
The number of deaths linked to COVID-19 in just five months is now equal to the number of people who die annually from malaria, one of the world’s most deadly infectious diseases.
The first COVID-19 death was reported on Jan. 10 in Wuhan, China but it was early April before the death toll passed 100,000, according to the Reuters tally of official reports from governments. It took 23 days to go from 300,000 to 400,000 deaths.
The United States has the highest death toll in the world at almost 110,000. Fatalities in Brazil are rising rapidly and the country may overtake the United Kingdom to have the second-largest number of deaths in the world.
The total number of deaths is believed to be higher than the officially reported 400,000 as many countries lack supplies to test all victims and some countries do not count deaths outside of a hospital.