EU Grants UK “Flextension”
Boris Johnson was compelled by the Benn Act to request a three-month extension period to the UK’s A50 notification, under the Treaty of Lisbon, of its intention to leave the EU (originally slated for 29th March 2019). He did so with evident bad grace whilst making it clear that it was against his personal desire, and in doing so may well have placed himself in contempt of the declarations made on his behalf to the Scottish court. The Benn Act required that the PM immediately accept any offer from the EU to extend the notice period by the specified period.
The request for extension was submitted, as the law required, on 19th October 2019 once it became clear that Johnson could neither get parliamentary approval for his deal (scuppered by the Letwin amendment which required that all of the legislation required for the bill be passed before parliament consented to it) nor a majority for a “no deal” exit. Whilst the Withdrawal Agreement Bill for his deal did get a majority of 30 in favour of allowing it to be debated further (it passed its “second reading”), the government lost a “programme motion” associated with the bill which would have granted just 3 days for the scrutiny and passage of it, leading Johnson to “suspend the bill” (a consequence of its losing the programme motion which rendered in in “limbo” anyway).
Yesterday, the EU granted a so-called “flextension” until the end of January 2020 of the A50 notice, but set it up such that, should Johnson’s deal clear parliament before hand, the UK could leave the EU at that time.
Johnson tried to get parliament to agree to an early election last night, for the third time in his premiership. He failed for a third time to secure the 2/3rds majority in the Commons to trigger an election. Today, he will steal a LibDem/SNP initiative to change the fixed term parliaments act to enable a specific date to be set for a general election (during the week beginning 9th December 2019). The bill would be debated through all its stages today and would only require a simple majority to become law December. The Leader of the Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, has given an undertaking that the WAB would not be reintroduced before the dissolution of parliament which would occur five weeks before any election (making this session of Parliament which only commenced on 14th October 2019, one of the shortest in British political history).
Whilst polling give Johnson a health lead at the moment very few people are convinced that the outcome of the election (if called) can be predicted.