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Thu Oct 17, 2019, 12:27 PM

Has the EU really ruled out another Article 50 extension?

No. But Boris Johnson needs Labour MPs to believe it has.

Deal or no-deal: that’s the stark choice MPs will face when the Commons sits on Saturday if reports from Brussels are to be believed. Asked to rule out a further extension to Article 50 beyond 31 October, EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said: “We have concluded a deal and so there is not an argument for the delay. It has to be done now...[Boris Johnson] and myself don’t think it’s possible to give another prolongation. There will be no other.”

Emmanuel Macron, meanwhile, has struck a similar note. “France said very clearly in the spring that we mustn’t pursue these discussions after the end of October,” the French president has said.

In appearing to rule out another extension, Juncker and Macron have created the cliff-edge scenario that the prime minister believes is necessary to deliver a majority - and particularly the Labour switchers that he will need in the absence of the DUP's 10 votes. It has been dutifully reported to that effect, most notably by the BBC's breaking news app.

The problem for Johnson, however, is that the proposition is not as binary as he might like. As much as Juncker sounds like he is opposed to a further extension, it is not within the Commission’s gift to offer or reject one (and nor did he expressly rule it out). Rather it is the individual member states who will decide whether to accept or reject a request for an extension the government has committed to table under the terms of the Benn Act, or, for that matter, offer one themselves - as was the case in March.

https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/uk/2019/10/has-eu-really-ruled-out-another-article-50-extension


Soundings among various EU office holders indicate that a decision on any extension if this deal isn't passed is by no means done and dusted, despite interpretations of Juncker's statement earlier today.

Barnier's been talking about the prospects of an extension into 2020.

The media, including the BBC, jumped the gun earlier today in reporting Juncker vetoing any chances of an extension - indeed, the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg has been serving her usual role of craven stenographer to the Johnson regime and putting her gloss on matters that serves it best. It's a shame that Katya Adler, a much better analyst with no identifiable ulterior motives, isn't in her role - see what she tweeted in Muriel's reply to Sophie's post in Latest Breaking News.

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