The British government has insisted it will leave the European Union in 11 days, despite the parliament forcing Prime Minister Boris Johnson to ask for another extension on the exit date.
On Saturday the parliament passed up the chance to decide on Mr Johnson’s revised withdrawal deal with the European Union and forced the reluctant Prime Minister to ask the extension on the UK’s 31st of October exit date.
After reaching a Brexit deal with the EU last week, Mr Johnson had intended parliament to approve the plan in a “meaningful vote” over the weekend.
Instead, MPs voted in favour of an amendment withholding the approval of the deal until all the necessary legislation to implement the plan has been passed.
The defeat in parliament opened Mr Johnson up to a law forcing him to write to the EU and request a delay until January 31.
Despite this, the government is adamant they can leave the EU in just days.
“We are going to leave by October 31. We have the means and the ability to do so,” Michael Gove, the minister in charge of no-deal Brexit preparations, told Sky News.
“That letter was sent because parliament required it to be sent … but parliament can’t change the Prime Minister’s mind, parliament can’t change the government’s policy or determination.”
Bizarrely, No 10 said Mr Johnson sent two letters to Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, with the request for extension letter left unsigned and paired with a signed letter explaining why he thought a delay would be a mistake.
“I have made clear since becoming Prime Minister and made clear to parliament again today, my view, and the Government’s position, that a further extension would damage the interests of the UK and our EU partners, and the relationship between us,” Mr Johnson said in the letter.
Mr Tusk said he had received the request from Mr Johnson and said he would consult EU leaders “on how to react”.
Despite the setback, Mr Johnson will continue to push for the deal, which was approved by EU leaders last week, in parliament this week, with the first vote as soon as Tuesday.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab also said he was confident enough MPs would back the deal next week.
Mr Raab told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show that “notwithstanding the parliamentary shenanigans, we appear to have now the numbers to get this through”.
He said there were “many people in the EU” who were “deeply uncomfortable” about a further delay to Brexit.
European media is reporting that it’s unlike the request for an extension in the date would be denied, given the impact on countries if a no-deal exit was going to take place.
Mr Gove said the risk of a no-deal exit had increased and the government was willing to trigger “Operation Yellowhammer” – its contingency plan to handle a no-deal Brexit.
“We cannot guarantee that the European Council will grant an extension,” he said, adding that he would chair a meeting on Sunday “to ensure that the next stage of our exit preparations, our preparedness for a no deal, is accelerated”.
Mr Johnson’s Prime Ministership is built on the back of a promise to get Brexit over the line. The parliament has previously rejected three deals.