A few hours before the suspension of work in the British Parliament, Boris Johnson remains stuck between his desire to leave the European Union (EU) at any cost — and that of Parliament, which forbids him to do so without prior agreement.
Speaking in Dublin on Friday, the British Prime Minister said he wants to conclude a Brexit agreement with the EU at the European Council on October 18th, while assuring that he is not intimidated by the efforts of the opposition parties to block an exit. without agreement.
I am absolutely not intimidated by what might happen in Parliament. […] I think that what the British people want is to conclude an agreement and leave on October 31st.
Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
Under a law passed by a joint opposition party last week, Johnson must take advantage of the European Council to push the deadline to reach an agreement by 3 January 2020, unless a new agreement will be concluded by then.
The law, which was sanctioned by the Queen on Monday, puts Mr. Johnson squaring the circle: either he breaks his election promise to leave the EU on October 31 or he violates the British law.
Last week, he said he preferred to die in a ditch rather than ask for a postponement of Brexit. Such a request should also be approved unanimously by the 27 EU member states.
A Brexit without agreement would be a failure of governance
Speaking alongside Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, Johnson said he had carefully considered the consequences of a Brexit without agreement and maintained that it was feasible, despite the fears of opposition and the business community.
Of course, we could do it; the United Kingdom would be fine, but be sure that this result would be a failure of governance for which we would all be responsible , he said.
For the sake of businesses, farmers and the millions of people who rely on us for imagination and creativity, I want to say that I prefer a thousand times to find an agreement.
Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
This is not the first time that Boris Johnson talks about a new agreement to replace the one negotiated by his predecessor Theresa May, rejected three times by Parliament, but few people think that such an outcome is possible.
The Irish Prime Minister, Leo Varadkar, also reiterated Monday that he will not approve a new agreement not including the backstop , the safety net supposed to prevent the return of border controls between his country and Ireland. North, which remains a British province.
Such a mechanism would make it possible to respect the Good Friday agreements concluded in April 1998, which stipulate that this border must remain open. It is however decried by many Conservative MPs who denounce a loss of British sovereignty.
Boris Johnson calls for the removal of this safety net and says a solution can be found very quickly, but this assumption is ruled out by the EU and Dublin.
In the absence of alternative arrangements, no “backstop” means no agreement for us.
Leo Varadkar, Irish Prime Minister
In an interview published on Monday, the Dutch Foreign Trade Minister suggested that the Netherlands might prefer a Brexit without agreement on 31 October to extend the current uncertainty.
“There comes a time when the certainty of a bad result can be better than a persistent uncertainty without a new perspective,” Sigrid Kaag told Het Financieele Dagblad daily .
We will need a good reason for a new postponement. It’s hard to say what it could be. So far, the British have presented no alternative to the already negotiated withdrawal agreement.
Sigrid Kaag, Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade
What do the British think?
According to the latest non-probabilistic survey published by the YouGov Institute in early September, 64% of Britons consider it unlikely that a new Brexit agreement will be reached by 31 October. Only 20% of them believe the opposite.
In addition, 46% of Britons say they oppose the holding of early elections, as desired by Boris Johnson, against 35% who are in favor.
No less than 55% of respondents say they do not trust Boris Johnson will make good decisions about Brexit, but official opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn is even worse: 77% of Britons do not trust him.
Finally, the British remain very divided on the merits of Brexit. Up to 48% say they were wrong to vote, compared to 41% who feel they were right, and 11% of respondents still do not know what to think.
New attempt to trigger early elections
Back from Dublin, Mr Johnson will again ask parliamentarians on Monday afternoon to call an early election on 15 October. Under British law, such a vote must be approved by two-thirds of the Parliament.
A first attempt in this direction ended in a bitter failure for Johnson last week. His proposal received only 298 votes, while he needed 434 votes.
The same result is expected today, since the parties – the Labor Party in the lead – insist that the Prime Minister get a postponement of Brexit before going to the polls.
[The opposition parties] agreed not to support Boris Johnson’s ploy to deprive the people of its decision-making power by leaving the EU without an agreement during an election campaign.
Labor Chief Spokesperson Jeremy Corbyn
This second attempt is likely to be the last for several weeks. Prime Minister Johnson’s office has confirmed that Parliament will be prorogued at the end of the debate on Monday night, so parliamentarians will not be back until October 14.
Yolonda Kerr is a general assignment reporter at The Grand Newsstand. She has covered sports, entertainment and many other beats in her journalism career, and has lived in San Francisco for more than 8 years. Yolonda has appeared periodically on national television shows and has been published in (among others) NPR, Politico, The Atlantic, Harper’s, Wired.com, Vice and Salon.com.