PM JOHNSON’S ‘do or die’ pledge is truly dead, as the EU has insisted as a condition of their ‘flextension’ that the UK will have to appoint a new European Commissioner for the entire duration, until they leave on January 31.
Under the conditions of the ‘flextension’ – the UK can only leave before the deadline if a deal is approved by Parliament. This means that, rather than being ‘unshackled’ from the EU on October 31st, the EU has tightened the screws.
A European Commissioner is a member of the 28-member European Commission (EC) tying the UK firmly to it for the forseeable future.
Incoming EC President Ursula von der Leyen confirmed during a visit to Helsinki before the weekend: ‘If, after the first of November there might be an extension and the UK is still in the EU, then of course I would ask the UK to send a Commissioner.’
Britain did not propose a candidate for Commissioner as the other 27 EU countries did when the new EC was appointed.
Tory PM Johnson has, up until now, refused to nominate a replacement for Julian King, the last UK European Commissioner, in the new EC because he insisted that Britain would leave the EU on 31 October.
Last night, the government was due to move its own motion calling for a general election on December 12, but was expected to be defeated as Labour said it was opposed to it.
The Scottish Nationalists and the Lib Dems have proposed an election date just three days earlier on December 9th. The government has not ruled out getting behind that proposed date, if it is put to the House of Commons today.
The SNP and Lib Dems have proposed a bill that would tweak the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 – the law which sets the time-frame for elections.
If passed, it would enable an election to be called in the House of Commons with only a majority of one, rather than two-thirds of MPs.
However, Johnson fears that because it is a new piece of legislation, it could be amended to include voting for 16 and 17-year-olds.
If this happens, an election would be pushed right back by six months, as all sorts of new preparations would have to be made to accommodate the new age group.
A Downing Street spokesperson yesterday afternoon put out a statement saying if this is the case ‘we will introduce a bill almost identical to the Lib Dem-SNP bill tomorrow.’
The statement added: ‘This Parliament has repeatedly failed to deliver on its promise to respect the referendum.
‘Millions of families and businesses can’t plan because of constant delays.
‘We need a new Parliament by Christmas so we can Get Brexit Done in January and the country can move on.’
The SNP’s Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, said they would then fight an election ‘on the basis’ of stopping Brexit.
Lib Dem MP Chuka Umunna claimed the plan to have an election on December 9th would also prevent the prime minister ‘ramming through’ his Brexit bill, which the Lib Dems oppose, and changing the date of an election until after the UK has left the EU.
Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson conceded: ‘We will keep fighting for a People’s Vote, but unless Labour wholeheartedly back it then a general election is the only way we can use this extension to stop Brexit.’
Labour Party Chairman Ian Lavery accused the Lib Dems of ‘getting into bed with the no-deal Brexit Conservatives and forgetting their chums’ in the People’s Vote campaign.