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Johnson in Talks With Corbyn Over New Timetable: Brexit Update

By john 23 October 2019
Caption
Boris Johnson departs 10 Downing Street on Oct. 23. Photographer: Hollie Adams/Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) --Boris Johnson held talks with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in an attempt to reach an agreement on a new timetable for pushing his Brexit deal through Parliament and into law.

The prime minister and the leader of the opposition met in Westminster but no agreement has so far emerged from the discussion on the way forward for the Withdrawal Agreement Bill. The meeting came after Parliament rejected Johnson’s plan to rush the bill, which turns his Brexit deal into law, through the House of Commons in just three days.

Key Developments:
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas hints a Brexit delay could come with conditions
Opposition Labour Party says its willing to back early election if risk of no-deal Brexit is removed
Johnson takes Prime Minister’s Questions at 12 p.m.
EU ambassadors to meet later in Brussels to discuss extension
EU Ambassadors to Discuss Extension (12:45 p.m.)
Ambassadors from the EU’s other 27 governments will meet in Brussels at 5:30 p.m. local time to discuss the U.K.’s request for a Brexit delay.

They can’t make the final decision — that will have to come from EU Council President Donald Tusk on behalf of all the leaders — but they will give a sense of what the EU’s response will be.

It could be that the decision is a formality, or Tusk will have to convene a summit. Oct. 28 has been penciled in for that meeting, but most EU officials hope it won’t be necessary.

Johnson Still Wants Brexit on Oct. 31 (12:40 p.m.)
Boris Johnson told Parliament he still wants to deliver Brexit by Oct. 31, though he offered no path to achieving this goal.

Asked by former Tory Chancellor of the Exchequer Kenneth Clarke to set out a new compromise timetable to get his Brexit bill through Parliament, Johnson said it would depend on how the EU responds the request for a Brexit delay that he sent to the bloc on Saturday night.

“I think it would be still very much in the best interests of this country and democracy to get Brexit done by Oct. 31,” Johnson said.

Deal ‘a Great Advance,’ Johnson Says (12:15 p.m.)
Boris Johnson defended his deal with the EU and urged the opposition to enable him to push it through Parliament.

“I believe the union is preserved and we are able to go forward together as one United Kingdom and do free trade deals that have been impossible under previous deals,” Johnson told MPs in the House of Commons. “This is a great advance for the whole of the U.K. and we intend to develop that with our friends in Northern Ireland.”

“I do think it’s a great shame the House willed the end but not the means” in Tuesday night’s votes, Johnson said. He urged Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn to “get Brexit done” and accused him of having “no other purpose in seeking to disrupt Brexit than seeking a second referendum.”

Johnson Meets Corbyn for Talks on Exit Law (12 p.m.)
The premier hosted his arch rival, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, for a discussion in Parliament aimed at seeing whether there is any hope of agreeing a new timetable for MPs to debate and scrutinize the Brexit deal.

Johnson was thwarted on Tuesday night when the House of Commons refused to allow him to rush his deal through Parliament and into law in a fast-track program. According to an official from Johnson’s Conservative party, Corbyn did not propose anything other than more delays and a referendum.

A Labour Party spokesman said: “Jeremy Corbyn reiterated Labour’s offer to the prime minister to agree a reasonable timetable to debate, scrutinize and amend the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, and restated that Labour will support a general election when the threat of a no-deal crash out is off the table.”

France Waits To See How Long U.K. Needs (11.55 a.m.)
France thinks the U.K. Parliament should be able to scrutinize the Brexit legislation in a matter of days and wants to wait for Johnson’s view on that before deciding how long to delay the exit date, according to a French official. The French believe a maximum of 15 days should be given, the official said, rather than the full three months to Jan. 31 that Johnson reluctantly requested.

This contradicts the thinking in many European capitals, as suggested in a tweet last night by EU Council President Donald Tusk, that the EU should grant the U.K. a three-month delay, with the ability to end the extension early.

Government Wants New Timetable for Bill: Smith (11:45 a.m.)
Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith, also a former chief whip, suggested the government’s priority is to propose a new legislative timetable for the government’s Brexit bill after the House of Commons rejected an accelerated schedule on Tuesday.

Speaking to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Smith said he hopes to get a so-called program motion “that is to the satisfaction of a majority of people in this House and resolve this situation.” He also said he thought last night’s votes were the “beginning of the end of this chapter.”

Nothing Agreed at Johnson-Corbyn Meeting: BBC (11:40 a.m.)
The BBC said “nothing was agreed” at the reported meeting between Boris Johnson and Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn (see 11:30 a.m.) on a new timetable for the prime minister’s Brexit bill.

Johnson, Corbyn Discuss New Timetable: Times (11:30 a.m.)
Boris Johnson and opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn are meeting to discuss a new timetable for the prime minister’s Brexit bill to be debated in the House of Commons, the Times newspaper reported on Twitter, without saying where it obtained the information.

Varadkar Backs Brexit Extension (11 a.m.)
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar appeared to back a flexible extension to the Brexit process, after speaking to European Council President Donald Tusk. Varadkar confirmed his support for a delay, while both men noted that it would still be possible for the U.K. to leave before Jan. 31 if the withdrawal agreement is ratified before then, according to an Irish government statement.

Fundamental Changes Needed: DUP’s Wilson (10:50 a.m.)
Sammy Wilson, Brexit spokesman for the Democratic Unionist Party, reiterated that his party would not support the withdrawal agreement in it’s current form, calling parts of it “unpalatable and unacceptable.”

Wilson told RTE radio he would use a Brexit extension to persuade the U.K. government “to change its position” on the deal which he said would change Northern Ireland’s constitutional position within the U.K.

“It’s very difficult to take at face value” assurances Johnson made in Parliament about light touch rules around movement between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, he said, adding his party would support a move by the prime minister to hold a general election.

Maas Indicates Delay May Come With Conditions (10 a.m.)
A Brexit extension to Jan. 31 shouldn’t simply be given by the European Union, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Wednesday, raising the prospect it may come with conditions. “We have to know: What is the basis for it? What will happen by then? Will there be an election?” Maas said to broadcaster N-TV.

“Above all we have to know what the British are planning and what Johnson is planning. At the moment that’s once again completely unclear,” Maas said. A short extension of two or three weeks to get approval in Parliament, on the other hand, is “less of a problem.”

Labour Wants Election Once EU Sets Delay (9:45 a.m.)
Richard Burgon, Labour’s justice spokesman, said the main opposition party would back a general election as soon as the European Union agrees an extension, and as long as that extension is for more than just a few weeks.

Burgon also said Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s offer to work with the government to come up with a “reasonable” alternative timetable for scrutinizing the Brexit bill still stands.

“Until a general election is called we’ll carry on making that offer, to try and improve that bill to make it closer and closer to what we would call a credible Leave option,” he said.

Extension Needed to Break Impasse: Duncan-Smith (Earlier)
Iain Duncan Smith, a hard-line Brexiteer and former leader of the Conservative Party, said he’d rather have an election than extend the timetable for passing the Brexit bill.

If the EU grants a three month extension, then Parliament would take up all of that time and would hang amendments on it “like a Christmas tree,” he told Bloomberg TV.

Earlier:
Boris Johnson Eyes Election After Parliament Forces Brexit Delay
Johnson Faces Extension Rebellion After Defeat: Brexit Bulletin
Brexit Has the British Fleeing to Europe: Leonid Bershidsky

–With assistance from Tim Ross, Anna Edwards, Helene Fouquet, Jessica Shankleman, Patrick Donahue and Peter Flanagan.

To contact the reporters on this story:
Greg Ritchie in London at [email protected];
Robert Hutton in London at [email protected];
Ian Wishart in Brussels at [email protected]

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Tim Ross at [email protected]
Stuart Biggs

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