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Brexit latest: No extension without new referendum or an election, EU insists

Britain will only be granted a Brexit extension by the EU if it agrees to hold a general election or a second referendum, it emerged on Wednesday night.

David Sassoli, the president of the European Parliament, set out the condition during a debate in Brussels. Mr Sassoli revealed he discussed the plans directly with John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, in London on Tuesday.

Mr Sassoli told the European Parliament: “I had a fruitful discussion with Speaker Bercow in which I set out my view that any request for an extension should allow the British people to give its views in a referendum or an election.”

France’s Europe Minister Amélie de Montchalin backed the plan and said: “If there are new elections or a new referendum, if there is a political shift leading us to believe we could have a different dialogue from the one we have today, then an extension can be discussed.”  

Mr Johnson has repeatedly called for a general election, but has been thwarted by Remain-backing MPs who have said they will only vote for one if he delays Brexit.

On Wednesday night EU leaders appeared to signal that any extension would be contingent on an election or second referendum.  

Their comments came as the negotiations over Boris Johnson's proposed Brexit deal are expected to come to a conclusion in the next 24 hours.

On Wednesday night it was revealed that Jeremy Corbyn would be willing to grant Mr Johnson a general election on Tuesday November 26 if the Prime Minister fails to deliver Brexit at the end of the month. 

According to The Sun, Mr Corbyn will agree to an election if Mr Johnson tables a vote for it on October 21. 

In a speech in Northampton the Labour leader is expected to tell the PM to "obey the law, take no-deal off the table and then let's have a general election." 

On Thursday the Prime Minister will travel to Cheshire to meet his Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar. Unless an agreement over the Irish border is reached, it is expected the talks with the European Union will formally conclude on Friday morning, at which point Mr Johnson is expected to attempt to leave with no deal on October 31.

His plan is expected to be fought by a 'rebel alliance' of Remain backing MPs in the Commons. In an interview with The Telegraph, Philip Hammond unveiled his alternative proposal for a deal. The plan would see Great Britain in an EU trade arrangement built on a customs union and full alignment with the EU’s single market.

However it will be opposed by Brexiteers as it would effectively mean the UK would be unable to strike unilateral trading arrangements with other nations.

“It’s important we send a message to Brussels that the well isn’t run dry of ideas - that there is still a deal to be done, and that deal doesn’t have to be dictated by hardliners on either side,” the former Chancellor told The Telegraph. 

On Wednesday European Union leaders attacked the Prime Minister as they intensified the Brexit "blame game" they had previously accused him of playing.

First, reports emerged that the EU was prepared to make an offer of a Northern Ireland only backstop in an attempt to break the deadlock. However, Iain Duncan Smith, the former Tory leader, accused the EU of "tokenism". He said: "This is about shifting blame to Boris Johnson."

Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit Coordinator, then branded Boris Johnson a “traitor” to Britain. He attacked Mr Johnson for trying to force a no deal Brexit by not asking for an extension.

“It is a blame game. A blame game against everybody,” he said.

“The only one who is not to be blamed is Mr Johnson apparently. All those who are not playing his game are traitors, are collaborators, are surrenderers.”

He added: “The real traitor is he or she who risks bringing disaster on his country its economy and its citizens by pushing Britain out of the European Union.”

Nigel Farage, the leader of the Brexit Party, said of the meeting between Mr Bercow and Mr Sassoli: “All rules of impartiality and decency are being abandoned by our political class.”

Belinda De Lucy, a Brexit Party MEP, said Mr Sassoli had “no right to go and speak with the UK speaker” and added: "It exposes your intentions to intervene at all levels to stop Brexit. It is immoral, shame on you.” 

A European Parliament official said: "Sassoli was in three capitals in three days- London, Berlin and Paris. In each one he met the head of state or government and the speaker of the house." 

It came as Jeremy Hunt, the former Foreign Secretary and Tory leadership contender, accused the EU of making "same mistakes over and over again". In an open letter to Foreign Secretaries of the EU 27 Mr Hunt said they were making a "catastrophic miscalculation" by refusing to engage with Boris Johnson's Brexit plans.

Meanwhile Mr Corbyn will declare Labour is “ready and champing at the bit” for a general election. In a speech in Northampton the Opposition Leader will attack Mr Johnson’s decision to have a Queen’s Speech on Monday as a “cynical stunt” and a “farce”.

Despite Mr Johnson’s attempts to get Parliament to vote for an election, Mr Corbyn has so far resisted, saying he wants to first force the Prime Minister to delay Brexit.

On Wednesday night Tony Blair told the BBC's Andrew Neil a general election is the "wrong way" to end the Brexit impasse and pushed for another referendum.

However Mr Farage has said running an election on a “no deal” platform will help Boris Johnson  "gain many votes" from the Brexit Party, suggesting a formal deal between the parties will not be needed.

Previously a memo from a Downing Street source - widely believed to be Dominic Cummings, Mr Johnson's senior adviser - said that the Prime Minister would fight the next election on a no deal manifesto rather than renegotiate with the EU.

Writing for the Telegraph, Mr Farage says: “If Johnson goes for a clean Brexit manifesto, he will lose some votes to the Lib Dems. But he stands to gain many more from us, provided we are seen to cooperate. Winning a huge Brexit majority in parliament is the prize that awaits.”

Mr Hammond conceded his proposal would leave the UK unable to sign independent trade deals, but he said these were of “very limited” economic value when set against the benefits of retaining close trade links with the EU.

Speaking exclusively to The Telegraph, Mr Hammond also was scathing about Mr Johnson’s ‘no deal’ negotiating strategy, accusing the Prime Minister of risking the Conservative party’s long-time reputation for economic competence and fiscal prudence. 

He warned a ‘no deal Brexit - if it were ever allowed to happen - would “destroy that reputation overnight” causing “immense damage” to the British economy and living standards, while undermining Britain’s standing on the international stage. 

Mr Hammond made no apology for his decision to vote for the Benn Act - dubbed the Surrender Bill by Mr Johnson - which forces the Prime Minister to seek an extension if no deal is reached by October 19.

“It gave Boris all the time up until the [October] European Council to put forward proper proposals and negotiate a smooth exit,” he said. “But he spent the time campaigning for an election rather than getting a deal.”

Boris Johnson and Leo Varadkar to meet tomorrow 

Number 10 have confirmed that the Prime Minster and the Taoiseach will meet tomorrow at lunchtime in the North West of England to discuss Brexit.

They said it will be a private meeting to allow both leaders and their teams to have detailed discussions.

'The Speaker has no mandate'

Leave.EU, the Political Campaign group, said it was "disgraceful" Mr Bercow and Mr  Sassoli had met and accused the Speaker of "representing Britain without any mandate whatsoever".  

Nigel Farage accuses Michel Barnier of finding obstacles 

The Brexit party leader said "we are not dealing with people acting in good faith".

"Yes that means you Mr Barnier," he said. 

"You are not looking for solutions, you are looking to put obstacles in our way." 

Mr Farage said that while Mr Barnier might have "conned a very weak and gullible Mrs May into signing up to a new treaty from which there is no escape you are not conning us".

"We don’t want your treaty in any form even with Mr Johnson’s proposed amendments," he said. 

"Support for a clean break Brexit is growing and it will be the winning ticket at the next general election."

'You have no right to speak to John Bercow'

Belinda De Lucy, Brexit Party MEP  in European Parliament debate, added her voice to the Brexiteer fury over the Speaker's secret talks with Mr Sassoli.

"Let me make this very clear Mr Sassoli," she said.

"You have no right to go and speak with the UK speaker having conversations that are directly interfering into our domestic politics. It exposes your intentions to intervene at all levels to stop Brexit. It is immoral, shame on you."

Guy Verhofstadt:  It is a blame game

The European Parliament's Brexit Coordinator said that in democracy you can change your mind and that, in his opinion, most British people had changed their mind about Brexit. 

It is a blame game. A blame game against everybody. A blame game against the Union, against Ireland, against Mrs Merkel, against the british judicial system, against labour, against lib dems, even Mrs May. 

The only one who is not to be blamed is Mr Johnson apparently. All those who are not playing his game are traitors, are collaberators, are surrenderers. 

The real traitor is he or she who risks bringing disaster on his country  its economy and its citizens by pushing Britain out of the European Union. That in my opinion is a traitor. 

'Brexit party MEPs nearly fell off our chairs' 

Richard Tice, the chairman of the Brexit Party, said he was gobsmacked to learn that John Bercow had met with the EU to plot how to achieve a clean-break Brexit:

Michel Barnier: The proposal of the British government as we stand is not something we can accept

Mr Barnier says that as things stand the British government's proposal "is not something we can accept".

He said he hopes to be able to come to an agreement that works for everyone and will be available 24/7 to try reach an agreement.

"If there is goodwill on both sides an agreement is still possible," he says.

Jean-Claude Juncker: We wont accept this London blame game 

The President of the European Commission says that as things stands he remains in discussion with the UK and has not excluded a deal being made. 

"We are not accepting this blame game which started in London," he says. 

"We are not to be blamed. But we will see in the next coming days how things will develop. 

"There is not only a parliament in Westminster that has to agree, there is also a parliament here. Without the agreement of the parliament here, no deal will be possible."

Nigel Farage furious that John Bercow met with David Sassoli

After President Sassoli revealed he had met with John Bercow to discuss Brexit, Mr Farage, leader of the Brexit Party, questioned "what right" the Speaker had to plot how to prevent a clean break Brexit. 

Northern Ireland given £8m to fund infrastructure and checks at ports

Meanwhile James Rothwell, our Brexit correspondent in Belfast, reports that the UK has given Northern Ireland a sum of money to fund what looks like equipment for border checks.

Northern Ireland received millions of pounds from the Treasury over the summer to fund CCTV, lorry parks and infrastructure projects in the event of a 'no deal' Brexit, it has emerged. 

The funding has raised eyebrows in Belfast as it appears to be geared towards providing equipment for carrying out border checks, despite the UK government insisting it will not carry out such checks in a 'no deal' scenario. 

The figures came to light after they were requested by Nichola Mallon, the deputy leader of the moderate nationalist party SDLP. 

Nearly £6m was given to the devolved Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) for "trade, inspection, legislation and policy staffing".

A further £3m will be spent on "vehicle parks," but the Government has not explained where these would be placed.

CCTV cameras, communication equipment and signage will cost a further £2.3m, while the Stormont's Executive Office has received £400,00 for a Brexit public information campaign. 

John Bercow's thoughts on Brexit

President Sassoli informs Parliament that he had "a fruitful discussion" with the Speaker, John Bercow, where he "set out my view that any request for an extension should allow the British people to give its views in a referendum or an election". 

"Speaker Bercow and I were very much on the same wavelength on the importance of the respective roles of our parliaments in managing Brexit," he says.

UK's commissioner has not been asked to stay on in post past October 31

Julian King was asked about his position at a Brussels press conference.

Britain has said it won't be nominating a commissioner for the next commission because it will leave the EU, with or without a deal, on October 31. 

Two are two options: no deal or an extension 

The European Parliament President David Sassoli has opened the debate in Brussels and says "not much progress has been made". 

I explained to Mr Johnson the European Parliament will not, however, accept any agreement at any cost. We cannot accept anything that would be a threat to the Good Friday Agreement or the peace process. 

The proposals put forward by UK recently as alternative to the backstop arrangement is something I told the Prime Minister we do not regard as the basis for an agreement. 

He says there are two options on the table: no deal or an extension and adds no-deal "is something for which the responsibility for would be laid at the door of the United Kingdom". 

Brussels braced for Boris Johnson Brexit summit walkout. 

Leo Varadkar has not dismissed the idea of consent in Stormont over the backstop

The Irish PM tells the Irish Parliament that anonymous briefings aren’t always reliable, and the EU’s negotiating guidelines haven’t changed.

However, Mr Varadkar did not kill off the prospect of giving Stormont the power to end the Northern Ireland - only backstop. 

Deputy Speaker: Parliament has a 'drink and drugs' problem

There is a problem with both drink and drugs inside Parliament, the deputy speaker of the House of Commons has admitted.

Asked whether there is an alcohol problem in Parliament, Sir Lindsay said: "I do think there is a drink problem and I think it needs to be addressed and the support needs to be given, that's why health and wellbeing has got to be extended."

He added: "It's not just drink we've got to catch out, there is a drug problem, and I genuinely believe that counselling and real support should be available for all staff and members.

"I think, I believe there will be a drug problem - there is a drug problem right across this country.

"I don't believe that somebody who walks in here may not be tempted into drugs, and what I'm saying is that we should have health and wellbeing in place for drink and drug counselling and real support for anybody."

Boris will make a statement to MPs on October 19

Leo Varadkar: Downing Street position causes 'great difficulty' in getting a Brexit deal

Leo Varadkar has said the Government is causing "great difficulty" with its position on a possible Brexit deal.

"Part of the difficulty at the moment though is the position of the UK Government is that Northern Ireland must leave the EU Customs Union and must be part of the UK Customs Union no matter what the people of Northern Ireland think," he said.

"That's their position at the moment and that's one that is a great difficulty for us because the position of the British Government is that the UK must leave the European Union and Northern Ireland must come out of the customs union, whether they like it or not.

"That creates huge difficulties for us because we want there to be a deal that respects the wishes of the people of Northern Ireland, and indeed the people in this Republic too."

Brexit deal 'difficult but possible', says Barnier

Bercow admits he has 'made mistakes' on impartiality

Scottish judges will not force Boris Johnson to request Brexit extension

Auslan Cramb writes:

Judges at Scotland's highest civil court have decided to delay their ruling on a bid to force Boris Johnson to send a letter requesting a Brexit extension if no withdrawal deal is agreed by October 19.

Campaigners wanted the Court of Session in Edinburgh to enforce legislation passed last month which is aimed at prevent a no-deal outcome.

But Lord Carloway said the court would allow the debate to “play out” before sitting again on October 21 to assess how circumstances had changed.

A previous court opinion said there was "no doubt" the PM had agreed to abide by the law, but the petitioners claim he cannot trusted. Mr Johnson has previously said he would "rather die in a ditch" than seek another delay beyond October 31.

Sammy Wilson: This isn't a serious proposal

Responding to the EU compromise about the Northern Ireland assembly being allowed to leave a new Irish backstop after an unspecified number of years, Mr Wilson, DUP Brexit spokesman, tells me:

I don't even think this is a serious proposal, I don't think it's meant to be taken as a serious proposal. The EU just had to counter the proposals that the Government made because all they'd come back with was rubbishing the Government's proposal without any suggestions of their own.  

He added that it was worse than what was offered to Theresa May and said it required a rewriting of the Belfast agreement, as it did not require a double consent arrangement like has been proposed. 

Diary note

Steve Barclay, Brexit Secretary, will head to Brussels tomorrow where he will meet with Michel Barnier, where they will discuss the state of play following a week of technical talks.  

Sterling shake up 

The pound responded positively to news that the EU was willing to make a major concession to Boris Johnson's deal, however it soon settled after the DUP poured cold water on the backstop proposals. 

Sterling is now sinking back towards where it stood, meaning it is once again sat around one-month lows against the dollar. 

For full, rolling coverage of today's markets, follow the business live blog here.

Harriet Harman:  Parliament is 'no longer an old boys club'

The Mother of the House told the Hustings that many women recognise that Parliament is "no longer an old boys club".

She said that notion "would be fully represented by having a woman in the chair". 

Reminder, last time Ms Harman honed in on the importance of having a woman in the role, Sir Alan Duncan, the former foreign minister, told me she had "disqualified herself from this race for being such an obsessive single-issue applicant". 

It will be interesting to see how her comments are received today. 

Here is an interview with Ms Harman by Chief Political Correspondent, Chris Hope, where she says making her Speaker would show women in their 60s aren't past it.

'If that bloke Vara can make it, so can I'

Shailesh Vara said that of the 157 speakers in the history of the commons, none of them "have been non-white". 

I'd like to think that if I were to become speaker, that I would send a powerful message to every single child in this country - black, white, brown, boy, girl. The message would be very simple, they could say if that bloke Vara can make it, then so can I.

 

John Bercow made Commons 'ungovernable' 

Sir Edward Leigh, who has put himself forward as Speaker, made a dig at John Bercow for having made himself the story in the role.

"The problem with our current Speaker is that he is the story," he said. 

Sir Edward added that Mr Bercow had made the Commons "ungovernable" with his reforms to procedure.  

 

EU  set to make major concession to offer a double majority vote in Stormont to exit backstop

The EU are ready to make a major concession on consent by allowing a double majority in the Northern Ireland assembly to leave a new Irish backstop after an unspecified number of years. 

According to The Times, EU diplomatic sources are prepared to concede unilateral revocation of the withdrawal treaty by Stormont after a period of time, as long as both communities agree to it. 

Is John Bercow impartial?

Owen Bennett, the Telegraph's Whitehall Editor, is in Westminster Hall, where the nine candidates wanting to succeed John Bercow as Speaker are being grilled by lobby journalists.

He says: The hopefuls are lined up behind a row of desks, like candidates on The Apprentice, yet instead of facing just three stony faces there are around 30 journalists looking to be impressed.

The first question, from the Telegraph's Christopher Hope who is also chairing the hustings in his role as Lobby Chairman, was on whether Mr Bercow was impartial.

Shailesh Vara, Tory MP for North West Cambridgeshire and former Vice Chairman of the party, was the most damning, saying the current Speaker is a "verbal playground bully" who has "diminished the role".

Hustings we are go! 

 All nine candidates are in place for the hustings where they will debate why they should be the next Speaker. 

The candidates are: Sir Henry Bellingham, Chris Bryant, Harriet Harman, Meg Hillier, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Dame Eleanor Laing, Sir Edward Leigh, Shailesh Vara and Rosie Winterton.

The election of the next Commons Speaker will take place on November 4, after John Bercow - who has held the office since 2009 - takes the chair for the final time on October 31.

Chris Bryant, the MP for Rhondda, has already quoted the hit musical Hamilton. 

'The wrong party all along'

James Cleverly, the Tory Party Chairman, called out Heidi Allen, the most recent defector to the Lib Dems. He criticised her claim that Boris Johnson is driving moderates out of the party and questioned whether she was in the wrong party all along...

Rebellion on the cards?    

It sounds like Boris Johnson is facing a fresh rebellion in his cabinet, with a group of ministers poised to resign due to concerns that he is leading the country towards a no-deal Brexit.

Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan, British Minister for Northern Ireland Julian Smith, Justice Secretary Robert Buckland, Health Minister Matt Hancock and Attorney General Geoffrey Cox are all on a "resignation watch list", according to The Times.

An unnamed cabinet minister cited by the newspaper said that a "very large number" of Conservative members of parliament will quit if it comes to a no-deal Brexit.

Trying to find a way through various challenges 

Mr Donohoe added that Ireland's position was "not about entrapment".

"This is not about denying the democratic will of anybody, it is trying to find a pass through the many pressing challenges that we have," he said. 

"The arrangements we are talking about in a no-deal setting would have the most serious and negative of consequences for our island and for our economy."

Mr Donohoe cautioned that the "things we might need to consider doing in a no-deal setting would cause really serious difficulties for the movement of our trade on our island, for our economy, not to mention the Northern Ireland economy".

'Constructive engagement is the only choice'

Mr Donohoe hinted a deal was not dead as he said "the stakes are so high engagement that constructive engagement is the only choice". 

The stakes of what this could mean not only for a shared history between both countries that are so precious but for a shared future that we want to see continue in the future while we take our different journeys with respect to Europe means that even with the short time left, of course the Irish government, the Taoiseach, of course myself we want to engage."

He added that he was "more interested to see if there is a solution rather than engage in the potential of allocation blame". 

Paschal Donohoe: Dublin is not seeking to trap the UK with Brexit backstop 

The Irish Finance Minister said it was "absolutely not the case" that the "Irish Government is looking to trap anybody in any kind of arrangement, that is absolutely not the case". 

He said Ireland has been "crystal clear" for the last three years regarding its objectives and noted from the direct  engagement  he has directly with the British Government, "including the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he is tenacious and crystal clear in what he is looking for on behalf of the British government and I think the British government also has an understanding of the challenges we have," he told the Today programme.  

Mr Donohoe added that while the backstop was always an "insurance policy" Ireland "do not want to see the return of  customs checks and tariffs in Ireland. It goes beyond economic, it goes beyond trade, it goes back to the experience of what my country and I have gone through in my lifetime". 

 

Saturday, October 19

The Government is expected to call a special Saturday sitting of Parliament following next week's crucial EU summit, according to Government sources.

It will take place on October 19 regardless of whether Boris Johnson is able to win agreement from EU leaders on a Brexit deal. 

Politics today 

Good morning. 

Parliament has been prorogued, there is upset among the Tories over yesterday's explosive 'Cummings memo' and Brexit technical talks continue in Brussels today. 

In Westminster the prospective candidates seeking to become the next Speaker will appear before journalists for a two hour grilling from 10am. 

The line up ranges from Harriet Harman, Mother of the House, (who drew criticism when she said the next Speaker needed to be a woman or risk making female MPs feel invisible) to Chris Bryant, the Labour MP for Rhondda and a bookies' favourite.