The EU has agreed to offer the UK a Brexit “flextension” up to 31 January 2020, European Council President Donald Tusk said on Monday — a move that could help PM Boris Johnson in his quest for fresh elections.
It means Britain will not leave the EU on Thursday, as originally agreed, prolonging the saga of its withdrawal.
Johnson repeatedly said Brexit would happen on October 31 “do or die” but earlier this month he was forced by opponents to request an extension.
“The EU27 has agreed that it will accept the UK’s request for a Brexit flextension until 31 January 2020,” Tusk said of the idea of a “flexible extension”, which means Britain could go earlier if its parliament can ratify the divorce bill.
The parliament will vote on Monday evening on whether to allow Johnson to hold the election he says is necessary to resolve the Brexit deadlock.
Without a majority in parliament, Johnson needs the support of opposition parties.
He needs a two-thirds majority in the House of Commons in order to override the Fixed Term Parliament Act, passed by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition in 2010.
The bill was designed to ensure stability by taking away the power of the incumbent government to call elections on a date of their choice, setting the parliamentary term to five years.
Britain’s Labour party has ruled out supporting Johnson until the European Union agrees to extend the UK’s Brexit deadline until January 31, 2020.
Meanwhile, two other opposition parties in the UK – the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party (SNP) have offered Johnson an easier route to fresh elections.
In a letter to Tusk, Jo Swinson, Liberal Democrat leader, said that if the EU grants an extension to January 31, 2020, they and the SNP will propose an amendment to the Fixed Term Parliament Act to hold an election on December 9.
As an amendment, the bill would only need a simple majority to pass, with the SNP and Liberal Democrats 51 MPs getting Johnson over the line without the need for Labour Party support.
It is unclear whether Johnson will be willing publicly commit to avoiding a no deal exit, however, as the UK prime minister has repeatedly stated that to do so undermines Britain’s negotiating strategy.