The Independent

There is no way Boris can get a Brexit deadline deal through – unless he breaks his most solemn oath

There’s an emerging consensus – to be found in the newly reopened corridors of Westminster, the brokerage notes of the City, and the chat of commentators – that Boris Johnson will bring a withdrawal agreement back from “Brussels” and we will leave with a deal on 31 October 2019.

The sequence of events is said to conclude with a meaningful vote on 19 October, the day after the Council meeting end, so that the Benn Act obligation to ask for an extension doesn’t kick in. 

There would then be intensive work in parliament to satisfy the various legal preconditions to ratification in advance of the 31 October deadline.

We’ll tell you what’s true. You can form your own view.

From 15p €0.18 $0.18 USD 0.27 a day, more exclusives, analysis and extras.

There are a number of problems with this consensus. Many of them are pretty obvious. 

The EU is clear that there is no real negotiation going on – what will the deal actually be? What basis is there for thinking that a deal in anything like the form the EU would accept would be supported in the Commons? And, although this is less well appreciated, there are formidable – I believe insuperable – legal difficulties to the ratification by the UK and EU of any withdrawal agreement in 12 calendar days. They are outlined here

Shape Created with Sketch. ‘Brexit is like…’ The Top 20 Twitter analogies

Show all 20

left Created with Sketch. right Created with Sketch.

Shape Created with Sketch. ‘Brexit is like…’ The Top 20 Twitter analogies

1/20 The Beatles

“Brexit is like Liverpool trashing all its links to The Beatles and spending all its time and energy building Esther McVey World.”

Shutterstock / terry bouch

2/20 The number seven

“Trying to understand Brexit is like trying to figure out what colour the letter seven smells like.”

Shutterstock / jgl247

3/20 Pilots

“Brexit is like being in a plane hurtling towards the ground with the pilot and co-pilot arguing over who would crash it better.”

Shutterstock / View Apart

4/20 Operation

“Brexit is like going to the doctor, being told you need an operation, agreeing to it, then finding out they are going to cut off your cock & sew it to your forhead… …but refusing to get a 2nd opinion.”

Shutterstock / Dmytro Zinkevych

5/20 Wall

“My mentions have taught me that Brexit is like Trump’s wall. For its devoted fans it has a symbolic value totally unrelated to its workability, its true cost or the glaring self-interest of its proposers, whereas non-believers see nothing but a deranged and costly vanity project.”

Shutterstock / Tony Craddock

6/20 Skydive

“brexit is like a sitcom where at the start of the episode the main character tells a casual lie about being able to skydive to impress someone and now they’re at the end of the episode in a plane about to jump”

Shutterstock / Mauricio Graiki

7/20 Crumble

“Brexit is like if Farage & Johnson said “May we make you an *amazing* apple crumble?” & then 18 months later handed you a leaking bag of maggots & offal. You shouldn’t have to eat it.”

Shutterstock / CKP1001

8/20 Punch

“‘Asking me to support Brexit is like asking me to punch my constituents in the face,’ said Anna Turley, the Labour MP for Redcar, which voted 66:34 to leave. ‘It doesn’t make it easier if you tell me my constituents want to be punched.’”

Shutterstock / ZoneCreative

9/20 Fire

“Watching this government deal with Brexit is like being locked outside your house while you can see people inside setting fire to the furniture as the law’s telling you you can’t go in and stop them.”

Shutterstock / Gorb Andrii

10/20 Villains

“Brexit is like living in a superhero movie that has no heroes, just loads of incompetent villains fighting over who is more evil.”

Shutterstock / Aisyaqilumaranas

11/20 Book

“Brexit is like a bad novel. You are so far into it you just want to skip to the end to see if it ended as badly as it had begun. (You throw the book at the wall when you realise it is the first book in a trilogy).”

Shutterstock / Stokkete

12/20 Cricket

“Watching Brexit is like trying to reverse engineer the rules of cricket by listening to the radio. I have absolutely no idea what is going on.”

Shutterstock / ChrisVanLennepPhoto

13/20 Car

“Brexit is like the UK took a motorway exit, then found the road turning into a rutted grassy track, and now the car’s stuck in a muddy field, there’s no help in sight, it’s getting dark, everyone’s shouting at the driver, and the passengers are beginning to worry about food.”

Shutterstock / Kolbakova Olga

14/20 Cable

“Watching Brexit is like watching someone try and plug a coaxial aerial cable into a HDMI port. There is a lot of anger, a lot of swearing, and a lot of remarks about how this used to work before.”

Shutterstock / Elnur

15/20 Windows

“#Brexit is like going back to Windows 3.1”

16/20 Liars

“I’m sure most people remember a kid at school who just lied constantly? Who refused to back down, however outlandish the lie, and however it was disproven? Brexit is like all of those kids from every school have got together, and are now running the country.”

Shutterstock / chairavee laphom

17/20 Donors

“Trying to extricate ourselves from the EU, and Brexit, is like a multiple transplant patient attempting to give all the donated organs back.”

Shutterstock / Luuuusa

18/20 Electricity

“Paying my taxes to pay for Brexit is like asking a guy on death row if he has any change to put in the meter for the electric chair.”

Shutterstock / Fer Gregory

19/20 Bandersnatch

“Brexit is like watching Bandersnatch with your bae where bae is 70,000 Conservative party members hogging the PlayStation controller & choosing the most WTF option every time.!

Shutterstock / George Dolgikh

20/20 Constipation

“Brexit is like the shit that never comes. Total constitutional constipation. Ironically Brexit also sounds like a constipation relief medicine.”

Shutterstock / sasha2109

1/20 The Beatles

“Brexit is like Liverpool trashing all its links to The Beatles and spending all its time and energy building Esther McVey World.”

Shutterstock / terry bouch

2/20 The number seven

“Trying to understand Brexit is like trying to figure out what colour the letter seven smells like.”

Shutterstock / jgl247

3/20 Pilots

“Brexit is like being in a plane hurtling towards the ground with the pilot and co-pilot arguing over who would crash it better.”

Shutterstock / View Apart

4/20 Operation

“Brexit is like going to the doctor, being told you need an operation, agreeing to it, then finding out they are going to cut off your cock & sew it to your forhead… …but refusing to get a 2nd opinion.”

Shutterstock / Dmytro Zinkevych

5/20 Wall

“My mentions have taught me that Brexit is like Trump’s wall. For its devoted fans it has a symbolic value totally unrelated to its workability, its true cost or the glaring self-interest of its proposers, whereas non-believers see nothing but a deranged and costly vanity project.”

Shutterstock / Tony Craddock

6/20 Skydive

“brexit is like a sitcom where at the start of the episode the main character tells a casual lie about being able to skydive to impress someone and now they’re at the end of the episode in a plane about to jump”

Shutterstock / Mauricio Graiki

7/20 Crumble

“Brexit is like if Farage & Johnson said “May we make you an *amazing* apple crumble?” & then 18 months later handed you a leaking bag of maggots & offal. You shouldn’t have to eat it.”

Shutterstock / CKP1001

8/20 Punch

“‘Asking me to support Brexit is like asking me to punch my constituents in the face,’ said Anna Turley, the Labour MP for Redcar, which voted 66:34 to leave. ‘It doesn’t make it easier if you tell me my constituents want to be punched.’”

Shutterstock / ZoneCreative

9/20 Fire

“Watching this government deal with Brexit is like being locked outside your house while you can see people inside setting fire to the furniture as the law’s telling you you can’t go in and stop them.”

Shutterstock / Gorb Andrii

10/20 Villains

“Brexit is like living in a superhero movie that has no heroes, just loads of incompetent villains fighting over who is more evil.”

Shutterstock / Aisyaqilumaranas

11/20 Book

“Brexit is like a bad novel. You are so far into it you just want to skip to the end to see if it ended as badly as it had begun. (You throw the book at the wall when you realise it is the first book in a trilogy).”

Shutterstock / Stokkete

12/20 Cricket

“Watching Brexit is like trying to reverse engineer the rules of cricket by listening to the radio. I have absolutely no idea what is going on.”

Shutterstock / ChrisVanLennepPhoto

13/20 Car

“Brexit is like the UK took a motorway exit, then found the road turning into a rutted grassy track, and now the car’s stuck in a muddy field, there’s no help in sight, it’s getting dark, everyone’s shouting at the driver, and the passengers are beginning to worry about food.”

Shutterstock / Kolbakova Olga

14/20 Cable

“Watching Brexit is like watching someone try and plug a coaxial aerial cable into a HDMI port. There is a lot of anger, a lot of swearing, and a lot of remarks about how this used to work before.”

Shutterstock / Elnur

15/20 Windows

“#Brexit is like going back to Windows 3.1”

16/20 Liars

“I’m sure most people remember a kid at school who just lied constantly? Who refused to back down, however outlandish the lie, and however it was disproven? Brexit is like all of those kids from every school have got together, and are now running the country.”

Shutterstock / chairavee laphom

17/20 Donors

“Trying to extricate ourselves from the EU, and Brexit, is like a multiple transplant patient attempting to give all the donated organs back.”

Shutterstock / Luuuusa

18/20 Electricity

“Paying my taxes to pay for Brexit is like asking a guy on death row if he has any change to put in the meter for the electric chair.”

Shutterstock / Fer Gregory

19/20 Bandersnatch

“Brexit is like watching Bandersnatch with your bae where bae is 70,000 Conservative party members hogging the PlayStation controller & choosing the most WTF option every time.!

Shutterstock / George Dolgikh

20/20 Constipation

“Brexit is like the shit that never comes. Total constitutional constipation. Ironically Brexit also sounds like a constipation relief medicine.”

Shutterstock / sasha2109

But there is a further problem too. And it is embedded in how the Benn Act operates.

Pretty much the only thing MPs consistently agree on is that they will not contemplate a no-deal Brexit. That’s why they’ve passed two pieces of legislation compelling the prime minister to ask for an extension, the second being the Benn Act. But the problem is, if they fall into line with the prime minister’s plan, they open the door to no deal. 

The Benn Act does only one thing. It imposes a mandatory obligation on the part of the prime minister to ask for an extension if no withdrawal agreement has been approved by parliament by the end of 19 October. 

Under the plan set out above, they would approve the withdrawal agreement on 19 October and, as if by magic, that obligation would disappear. This piece explains how and why. 

The prime minister could then deliver no deal and placate his Spartans, and his Party membership, and destroy the Brexit Party. 

Indeed, even if MPs were to wait until later to approve the withdrawal agreement, they would still throw open the door to no deal. The Benn Act allows the prime minister to withdraw his request for an extension even if the date upon which MPs pass a withdrawal agreement is after 19 October. That’s what section 1(5) of the Benn Act says. 

The only way in which MPs can ensure that the prime minister – who is, let us remember, a man barely on nodding terms with the truth – doesn’t deliver no deal is to wait for an extension to be agreed with the EU before they vote on the withdrawal agreement. 

Support free-thinking journalism and attend Independent events

And I know, from conversations with several of the key MPs, that they are entirely wise to this. 

If Boris Johnson really wants to pass the withdrawal agreement on 19 October he will need to ask for an extension now. An extension, remember, that he said he would rather “die in a ditch” than seek.

Or he can wave goodbye to an October deal.

Jolyon Maugham

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *