Why Boris Johnson should request a Brexit delay from the EU

26 September 2019

4:07 AM

26 September 2019

4:07 AM

Boris Johnson wants a general election now.

Jeremy Corbyn and Nicola Sturgeon both say they want an election but not till after they are sure that the provisions of the Benn Act have been effective and the UK is NOT leaving the EU without a deal on October 31.

As far as I can see the only way for Johnson to break the impasse is for him to do precisely the opposite of what he has promised.

He should request a Brexit delay from the EU – and for the explicit purpose of fighting an election to determine whether or not the British people would give him a mandate for a no-deal Brexit.

If he fails to call the bluff of Corbyn and Sturgeon in that way, he will very likely find the decision is taken from his hands, because a growing number of MPs from all parties are coming to the view that a Brexit referendum would be preferable to a general election.

And if he does not move fairly fast, he may soon find that MPs – aided by the judiciary – remove from him any ability at all to determine the UK’s Brexit destiny and his own.

After the Supreme Court, Johnson is boxed in: the prisoner of MPs.

That is the express purpose of the court’s judgement, not speculation.

The Benn Act therefore means Johnson cannot have a general election any time soon without abandoning his pledge of Brexit ‘do or die’ on October 31.

Unless that is he genuinely believes he can get an amended Brexit deal from the EU in the next three weeks that Parliament might approve.

And although Johnson is an incorrigible optimist, he is not naive.

So if his imperatives are Brexit and the kind of majority in Parliament that might allow him to govern, something has to give.

And the only thing that can give is his fixation on and obsession with delivering Brexit on October 31.

The longer he insists October 31 is an immovable feast (or famine) the greater the risk he loses both Brexit and – as the almost inevitable corollary – any prospect of his party winning an election.

Robert Peston is ITV’s Political Editor. This article originally appeared on his ITV news blog.

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