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.


India closes on Russia toll as coronavirus cases hit daily record

Updated 05 July 2020

India closes on Russia toll as coronavirus cases hit daily record

  • The health ministry reported just under 25,000 cases and 613 deaths in 24 hours
  • The sharp rise came as Delhi started treating patients at a spiritual center converted into a sprawling isolation facility and hospital with 10,000 beds

NEW DELHI: India added a record number of coronavirus cases Sunday, approaching Russia as the world’s third-most infected nation as it opens a mass treatment center in the capital to fight the pandemic.
The health ministry reported just under 25,000 cases and 613 deaths in 24 hours — the biggest daily spike since the first case was detected in late January.
The sharp rise came as Delhi started treating patients at a spiritual center converted into a sprawling isolation facility and hospital with 10,000 beds, many made of cardboard.
About the size of 20 football fields, the facility will treat mild symptomatic and asymptomatic cases.
State government officials fear the metropolis could record more than half-a-million cases by the end of the month.
India’s surge took the total tally to more than 673,000 cases and 19,268 deaths, with the country on the cusp of surpassing badly-hit Russia.
A strict lockdown in place since late March has gradually been lifted, allowing most activities as the economy nose-dived amid the shutdown.
Schools, metro trains in cities, cinemas, gyms and swimming pools remain closed however and international flights are still grounded.
Authorities have made wearing masks mandatory in public places, while large gatherings are banned and shops and other public establishments are required to implement social distancing.
The western state of Maharashtra, the worst-hit state and home to financial hub Mumbai, recorded over 7,000 new cases.
Southern Tamil Nadu state and the national capital New Delhi recorded more than 4,200 and 2,500 fresh cases respectively.
Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai, Tamil Nadu’s capital, are the worst-affected cities.
The national government says it has tackled the virus well but critics allege India is conducting very few tests, leaving the true scale of the pandemic unknown.