Anand Menon, director of UK in a Changing Europe, said he expects the EU will give the UK an extension to Article 50, but the key issue is when they announce the move. If they wait until the last minute to grant the extension – or at least until after the votes in the Commons this week – it will “keep the spectre of no deal there”.
This might scare MPs into voting for Mr Johnson’s deal to avoid a no deal Brexit.
However, if they say right away that they will grant the extension, that fear will dissipate and Mr Johnson is less likely to get his deal over the line.
Mr Menon said: “There will be lots of different opinions.
“Some leaders will just want to see this done and so will want to help Boris Johnson.Boris has been compelled to request a Brexit extension from the EU (Image: GETTY)French President Emmanuel Macron (Image: GETTY)
“Others don’t like Boris Johnson or the kind of Brexit he had negotiated, so will not want to help him.”
French President Emmanuel Macron has said he does not believe an extension is the right choice for the UK or the EU, so he may push for the European Council to hold back in the hope of Parliament getting cold feet and voting through the deal this week.
Mr Menon pointed out that Mr Macron has been unusually quiet on the subject in recent weeks.
He said: “What is interesting to me is not what he’s said but how little he’s said.”German Chancellor Angela Merkel (Image: GETTY)
The academic said he thinks EU leaders are keeping their heads down and staying out of the Brexit divisions rumbling on in the UK.
He added that while they will try to put on a “front of unity”, behind the scenes there will be significant disagreements over this.
Mr Menon also claimed the chance of the UK leaving without a deal is very small, as EU leaders will feel compelled to try and prevent no deal.
He said: “They don’t want to be blamed for no deal.
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“If Boris Johnson wants to walk away with no deal then the fallout is his fault.
“But, if EU leaders reject an extension and the UK leaves with no deal, there will be people in their countries saying ‘Why did you do this to us?’”
When asked how long the extension is likely to be, Mr Menon reasoned that January 31 is the most likely option.
According to the Benn Act, if the EU offer an extension to this date the Government must automatically accept, but if they suggest a different date, this would have to be ratified by Parliament.
Yesterday, Parliament sat on a Saturday for the first time since the Falklands War to debate and vote on Mr Johnson’s new Brexit deal with the EU.
The new deal would see Northern ireland in a hybrid customs arrangement, meaning some checks for goods crossing the Irisih Sea.
However, the Letwin Amendment, which withholds approval for the Prime Minister’s deal until legislation implementing the UK’s withdrawal from the EU has become law, was passed by MPs 322–306 and Mr Johnson withdrew the vote on the deal.
This triggered the Benn Act, forcing Mr Johnson to request an extension to Article 50 until January 31, 2020.John Bercow announced yesterday that the Letwin Amendment passed 322-306 (Image: Parliament UK)
The Prime Minister has previously said he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than ask for any further Brexit delay, but was compelled to make the request by law.
He sent a total of three letters to President of the European Council Donald Tusk.
The first was a brief cover letter from the UK’s EU envoy explaining the government was simply complying with the law.
The second was an unsigned photocopy of the text that the law forced him to write.Boris Johnson said he would not "negotiate a delay with the EU" (Image: Parliament UK)
In the third letter Mr Johnson explained that he did not want an extension and lobbied EU leaders to reject the request.
He wrote: “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 EU partners, and the relationship between us.”
Mr Tusk acknowledged the letter and said: “I will now start consulting EU leaders on how to react.”
In the meantime, Mr Johnson insisted, the Government will step up no deal contingency preparations Operation Yellowhammer.