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Brexit to happen with Johnson deal: Source

This article is more than 12 months old

Meanwhile, EU leaders consider offering London a flexible three-month delay

LONDON/PARIS Britain will ultimately leave the European Union on the terms of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's deal, a senior Downing Street source said yesterday, as EU leaders mulled offering London a three-month flexible Brexit delay.

More than three years after voting 52 per cent to 48 per cent to be the first sovereign country to leave the European project, Britain is waiting for the EU to decide how long the latest delay to Brexit should be.

"This ends with us leaving with the PM's deal," a Downing Street source who spoke on condition of anonymity said.

"We will leave with a deal, with the PM's deal."

When asked when Brexit would happen, given the current deadline of Oct 31 is next week, the source said: "Parliament has taken back control."

Mr Johnson won the top job by staking his career on getting Brexit done by Oct 31, though he is almost certain to fail to do that after Parliament defeated his proposed legislative timetable on Tuesday.

So will there be an election before Christmas?

"Perhaps," the Downing Street source said. "We shall see."

As British politicians discuss the pros and cons of a Christmas election, responsibility for the timing of Brexit has passed to other European capitals: Berlin supports a three-month delay, while Paris is pushing for a shorter one.

Timing is crucial to the Brexit riddle.

While both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron appear to be fatigued by Brexit, they fear a no-deal exit that would almost certainly hurt global growth, roil financial markets and create a potentially deeper EU crisis.

To offer Britain a long extension would take the pressure off British lawmakers to approve Mr Johnson's deal and open up possibilities such as a referendum on it. A short extension might focus minds in the British Parliament.

There is broad consensus among the 27 countries in EU that a delay is needed, but an EU official said several member states had shared concerns voiced by France, in particular on the lack of clarity of what purpose the extension would serve.

"France is not convinced by the idea of a long extension, and the 27 are looking to find an agreement by the end of the week," a senior French diplomat said.

"Several countries are reluctant, such as the Netherlands and Poland."

Poland said it wanted to avoid a no-deal Brexit.

An EU diplomat said that while no decision had yet been taken on a delay, the bloc would grant one. EU ambassadors meet today to discuss a delay.

"Unanimous view is that an extension will be needed to overcome the deadlock in London and that decision should preferably be taken by written procedure - mood in the room points to a longer extension," the EU diplomat said.

Ireland said it supported a flexible extension - dubbed a "flextension" - including a break clause that would allow Brexit to take place before the deadline if Mr Johnson won approval for his deal. Italy also supports such an extension.

"I think that extension will be a flexible one," Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said. - REUTERS