Boris Johnson could be hoping European leaders will “sympathise” with him and veto any Brexit deal deadline extension so the UK leaves the EU by October 31, a Cabinet minister has claimed.
The UK’s Secretary of State for Scotland Alister Jack said that if the British Prime Minister was facing a choice between breaking his promise to leave by Halloween and breaking the law over asking for an extension, EU leaders could decide “enough is enough” and refuse to extend Article 50.
Explaining that it has been made “very clear” to Mr Johnson that the law states he must write a letter requesting an extension if he fails to get a deal, Mr Jack suggested that he may get sympathy from European countries who may “feel that it’s unfair” to prevent the Prime Minister having a no-deal Brexit.
Asked about Mr Johnson’s comments that leaving the EU by October 31 was “do or die”, Mr Jack said: “He can make it very clear that he doesn’t want to ask for that extension, that he’s being forced to ask for that extension and some European leaders may sympathise with him on that and feel that it’s unfair that he should have to do something he doesn’t want to do.
“If one of our European partners decides – and it could well be the French president – to use his veto and decides enough is enough, in that situation we would be leaving.”
With the court-backed Benn Act compelling Mr Johnson to send a letter requesting an extension from the EU instead of leaving without a deal, Mr Jack said: “The Government’s law officers have made it very clear that the Government has to ask for an extension under the Benn Act.”
He added: “Our intention is to get a deal done.
“Failing that, the law says the Government will have to ask for an extension but our efforts and energy are going into getting a deal and leaving on October 31.”
Asked whether the Prime Minister should resign if he breaks his promise to leave the EU by October 31, Mr Jack said: “He absolutely should not resign.
“The Prime Minister fully intends for us to leave by October 31, he will stand by that.”
Asked about the fact that Monday’s Queen’s Speech failed to mention Scotland at all, Mr Jack said it was a “fair point”, but added: “There are 21 Bills in here which – either in full or in part – apply to Scotland.”
Mr Jack told Good Morning Scotland: “The speech mentioned strengthening the United Kingdom and we will be strengthening the United Kingdom because as it said in the speech it protects the integrity and prosperity of the United Kingdom, and that includes Scotland.”
With the Queen’s Speech unlikely to pass after the Conservative government, backed by the DUP, lost its Commons majority due to defections, by-election defeats and Mr Johnson kicking out 21 MPs for trying to prevent a no-deal Brexit, Mr Jack still “hoped” the opposition parties would vote for the proposals, claiming there were “tremendous measures for the whole of the United Kingdom”.
He added: “It’s about getting Brexit sorted – that takes away the uncertainty, it’s about allowing trade deals to happen – and that’s good for the United Kingdom and Scotland obviously benefits from that – it’s about taking back control of our fisheries, that’s a huge benefit for Scotland and our coastal communities, and it’s about getting a better deal for farmers outside the EU, where we can tailor support payments appropriately.”