Boris Johnson is reportedly asking the EU to rule out a further Brexit extension as part of a proposed new deal for the UK’s departure from the bloc.
The Prime Minister last night insisted “big moves” aimed at securing an agreement had been made and said plans will be presented to Brussels by the end of this week.
He has also privately made clear that a deal should include a commitment from the other 27 EU nations that they will not allow a delay past the Halloween deadline, according to The Times.
Mr Johnson’s intention would then be to confront Parliament with the choice of either agreeing the revised deal or ensuring that Britain crashes out of the EU without agreement on October 31.
If he succeeds then the PM will, in effect, nullify the Benn Act, which compels him to seek an extension to Article 50.
Downing Street insiders indicated that Mr Johnson’s Brexit plans should be delivered to Brussels by the end of the week, after the conclusion of the Conservative Party conference.
Chancellor Sajid Javid said no deal may well happen” on October 31 despite a law aimed at preventing Mr Johnson from taking the UK out of the European Union without an agreement. And the Prime Minister said the Halloween deadline would be met “whatever happens”.
Speaking during a visit to a cash-and-carry business in Manchester, he said: “I’m cautiously optimistic. We have made some pretty big moves, we are waiting to see whether our European friends will help us and whether we can find the right landing zone.
“But whatever happens, we’ll come out on October 31.”
Mr Javid said he thinks he knows how the Prime Minister intends to achieve the October 31 withdrawal despite the restrictions of the Benn Act.
The law was rushed through Parliament to require the Prime Minister to seek a delay to Brexit if a deal has not been agreed by October 19, or if MPs have not agreed to leave the EU without one.
But there have been suspicions in pro-EU circles that the Prime Minister will try to avoid complying with the requirements.
The Chancellor told the BBC: “Of course, every government should observe all laws at all times. We’re taking a careful look at that law.”
He said there could be no more “dither and delay and we will leave if we have to without a deal on October 31”
Asked if he knew how the Government would get around the Benn Act, he replied: “I think I do.
“The intention of the law is clear and I do think it has absolutely made it harder for the Government to get the deal that we all want to see. That said, it can still be done.
“It’s not about getting around the law… I don’t really want to discuss the detail of this law, it’s a pretty fresh new law, but we are also clear at all times we, of course, like any government, we will absolutely observe the law.”
Mr Javid said he was not sure how much no deal would cost the economy in the short term. He said: “I don’t think anyone really knows a full, proper answer to that question. And I have never pretended that if you leave without a deal it won’t be challenging.”
Elsewhere, opposition parties have criticised reports that the UK is proposing customs posts on both sides of the Irish border.
Irish state broadcaster RTE reported that a suggestion sent to the EU would see the customs posts built between five and 10 miles back from the border.
Fianna Fail Brexit spokeswoman Lisa Chambers tweeted: “This is effectively a border with a buffer zone and is clearly not a satisfactory alternative to the backstop With 30 days now to go until Brexit we need to see sensible workable solutions that ensure no hard border on the island of Ireland. What about regulations on goods?”
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said the reported proposals – which suggest parallel “customs clearance sites” – fail to meet the UK Government’s commitments under the December 2017 joint report and are “unacceptable”.
“The content of these proposals fails to meet the British Government’s obligations under the December 2017 joint report to avoid physical infrastructure, checks and controls at the border. It doesn’t matter if it’s a mile, five miles or 10 miles away, the presence of physical checks will create economic and security challenges that are unacceptable.”