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Sat, 31 October 2020

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Boris Johnson to tell Jean-Claude Juncker he will 'reject any Brexit extension' as he heads to Brussels

Boris Johnson to tell Jean-Claude Juncker he will 'reject any Brexit extension' as he heads to Brussels
3 min read

Boris Johnson will tell Jean-Claude Juncker that the UK is not prepared to delay Brexit beyond 31 October - despite MPs passing a law ordering him to do so if he cannot reach a deal.

The Prime Minister will hold his first face-to-face meeting with the European Commission President on Monday lunchtime, and said he was working "flat out" to strike a fresh agreement with Brussels by the 17 October European Council summit.

But a Downing Street source said Mr Johnson would tell the Commission president he will "reject any delay offered" and take Britain out of the bloc without a deal at the end of next month if no fresh agreement is reached.

They added: "Any further extension would be a huge mistake. It is not just a question of the extra dither and delay - it is also the additional long months of rancour and division, and all at huge expense."

The move comes in spite of MPs rushing a law through Parliament which orders the Prime Minister to seek a fresh extension of Article 50 if no agreement is reached by 19 October.

Writing in The Telegraph, Mr Johnson dismissed the cross-party act as "completely contrary to the UK’s interest" and said it had given the impression "that the UK is no longer either fully able or determined to leave on Oct 31".

But he warned: "In so far as that impression has been given, it is wrong. We will leave by that date - deal or no deal. Yes, it may now be harder to get a deal, since MPs seem set on tying the Government’s hand behind its back. But we are working flat out to get one."

The Prime Minister added: "If we can make enough progress in the next few days, I intend to go to that crucial summit on Oct 17, and finalise an agreement that will protect the interests of business and citizens on both sides of the Channel, and on both sides of the border in Ireland.

"I believe passionately that we can do it, and I believe that such an agreement is in the interests not just of the UK but also of our European friends."

Calling for end to the "whole divisive debate" over Brexit, Mr Johnson meanwhile urged MPs to "get this thing done" and "set this country on a brighter, more cheerful, more confident and more global path".

But the PM's upbeat comments came as Brussels hit back at his comparison of the UK's plight to that of the Incredible Hulk.

Mr Johnson had told the Mail on Sunday that Britain stood ready to break free of the EU’s "manacles", adding: “The madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets.”

But Guy Verhofstadt, the chief representative for the European Parliament, branded the comparison to the comic book character "infantile".

"Even to Trumpian standards the Hulk comparison is infantile," he said. "Is the EU supposed to be scared by this? The British public impressed? Is this Boris Johnson whistling in the dark?," he said.

One EU source meanwhile told The Guardian: "It all makes it look like it’s a bit of a joke. We are talking about something extremely serious. The consequences of no deal will be extremely serious and it looks like this is being treated as a game in which you are the hero sort of story rather than [dealing] with real lives."

Home Secretary Priti Patel on Sunday insisted that the "entire machinery of government" was now focused on Britain striking a Brexit deal with the European Union, while Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay insisted the UK was now in the "landing zone" for an agreement.

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