Postponed promises: What Boris Johnson’s unsigned letter to the European Union means for Brexit

Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (UK Boris Johnson has sent an unsigned letter to European Council president Donald Tusk seeking further delay in delivering Brexit. This comes after Johnson’s earlier claim that he would divorce Britain from the European Union (EU before October 31, and would rather be “dead in a ditch” than ask for an extension beyond that date.

A government source said that Johnson sent a total of three letters to Tusk – a photocopy of the text that the law, known as the Benn Act (that forced him to comply with the demand for extension; a cover note from Britain’s EU envoy saying the government was simply complying with that law; and a third letter in which Johnson said he did not want an extension.

“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,” Johnson wrote in the third letter, which was published on Twitter by the Financial Times’ Brussels correspondent.

Reports also added that the European Council, the body that drives the EU’s political priorities, has received Johnson’s letter and its ambassadors will meet to discuss a way forward. Donald Tusk said on Twitter that he had received the request from Johnson and would now start consulting EU leaders on how to react. However, it is unlikely that the EU’s 27 member states will make a decision on Britain’s delay request until a House of Commons vote. It might take a few days, the Guardian reported.

“The extension request has just arrived. I will now start consulting EU leaders on how to react.” Tusk posted from his official handle on Twitter.

The latest development displays Johnson’s angst over the difficulty he is facing in delivering Brexit as he had promised when his opponents in the House of Commons are repeatedly sending obstacles on his way, disrung his plans. The UK Prime Minister was compelled, by a law passed last month by opponents – the Benn Act, to send the letter to the bloc asking to push back the deadline to January 31 after lawmakers thwarted his attempt to pass his EU divorce deal on Saturday.

The Benn Act — officially the EU Withdrawal (No 2 Act — requires Prime Minister Boris Johnson to ask the EU for an extension to the Article 50 negotiating period, if the Parliament doesn’t agree to a favourable Brexit deal. It was enacted to avoid a no-deal Brexit on October 31, the Telegraph explained.

Johnson had previously promised that he would take the country out of the bloc on October 31, without explaining how he would do this while also complying with the Benn Act. “I will not negotiate a delay with the EU and neither does the law compel me to do so,” he told the Parliament on Saturday. However, the House of Commons, sticking to its tradition of applying itinerant brakes to Johnson’s dreams, disagreed on his proposed deal, instead voting322 to 306 in favour of an amendment that turned Johnson’s planned finale on its head by obliging him to ask the EU for a delay, and increasing the opportunity for opponents to frustrate Brexit.

The Prime Minister’s ever-increasing frustration in the face of a Brexit delay has turned him more arrogant, the Opposition politicians claimed, who accuse him of believing he was above the law.

“Johnson is a Prime Minister who is now treating Parliament and the Courts with contempt,” John McDonnell, the Opposition Labour Party’s finance spokesman said, “His juvenile refusal to even sign the letter confirms what we always suspected that Johnson with his arrogant sense of entitlement considers he is above the law and above accountability.”

Scotland’s highest court is due to consider on Monday a legal challenge that had been sought to force Johnson to comply with the Benn Act. The court said earlier this month that government lawyers had provided formal legal statements that said Johnson would abide by the Benn Act and it would be a serious matter if he did not.

“This is pathetic. Boris Johnson promised Scottish court he would comply with Benn Act & not seek to frustrate it. Looks like he’s breaking both promises,” Joanna Cherry, a Scottish National Party lawmaker involved in the case said on Twitter.

Britain is under a severe political deadlock centring on the issue that has been plaguing the sovereign country for over three years, ever since the Brexit referendum in June 2016, in which 51.9% of the participating voters had demanded that the country leave the EU.