Brexit 5: The sudden U-Turn no one expected

BoJo to seek extension if no withdrawal deal is agreed in time

In a sudden U-turn, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has accepted to request an extension of Article 50 if he fails to reach a new agreement on Brexit by 19 October, a Scottish court has been told by lawyers challenging the government. This decision comes as a big surprise, especially in light of Johnson’s latest statements at the Conservatives Party Conference, concluding a few days ago: “[…]we are coming out of the EU on October 31, come what may. […] We will work for a deal with our EU friends; but whatever happens we must come out by the end of October. Let’s get this thing done.” So far, the Government has refused to comment on the legal proceedings, however Brexiteer Steve Barker tweeted, “A source confirms all this means is that Government will obey the law. It does not mean we will extend. It does not mean we will stay in the EU beyond Oct 31. We will leave.” And the ball keeps on rolling…

Boris Johnson presents new Brexit plan

On Wednesday, Boris Johnson outlined his plan to exit the European Union to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland after Brexit. The plan would mean that Northern Ireland would stay in the European single market for goods but leave the customs union – resulting in new customs checks. Johnson says the controversial backstop has been removed and instead, the whole of the UK will leave the customs union.

The reaction from Brussels on the new Brexit plan

The reaction from Brussels on the new Brexit plan has been quite lukewarm to say the least. EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker responded saying that there were positive advances in some areas but the UK’s proposed system of “governance” of the new arrangements was “problematic” – and customs rules remained a concern. Boris Johnson described the plan as a compromise, but Corbyn described the proposals as unrealistic and damaging. The European Parliament have said that Johnson’s proposals do not “even remotely” amount to an acceptable deal for the EU, in comments echoed by Ireland’s deputy prime minister.

Government plans to prorogue Parliament

The government has confirmed its plan to prorogue Parliament next Tuesday and hold a Queen’s Speech on 14 October. The Prime Minister’s last attempt to prorogue Parliament was deemed unlawful by the UK Supreme Court but the Government needs to bring the current parliamentary session to an end if it wants to hold a Queen’s Speech setting out its agenda for the next session.

What happened at the Conservative Party Conference?

“Get Brexit Done” was the main slogan used at this year’s Conservative Party Conference and it was repeated from the stage speech-after-speech. Gearing up for a General Election, the Conservatives have pledged to spend large amounts of money in various areas, including £25bn for roads, £5bn for broadband, rises in the National Living Wage and boosts for hospital funding. This appeared to be quite the contrast from a party that had adopted a policy of austerity for almost a decade, as Chancellor Sajid Javid claimed that the Tories were now the “party of the workers”. The Conservative Party is positioning itself as the party of the NHS, with the Prime Minister dedicating a sizable chunk of his speech to our healthcare system, describing it as “holy to the people of this country”. Home Secretary Priti Patel reaffirmed the Conservative Party as the party of law and order during her speech as she pledged to be tough on sex offenders and arm more officers with tasers. She also promised to end free movement once and for all and repeated the pre-announced introduction of an Australian-style immigration system.

The Whitehouse team are experts in the potential impact of Brexit, providing political consultancy and public affairs advice to a wide range of clients, not only in the United Kingdom, but also across the member states of the European Union. More information about our Brexit experience can be found here, or, if you have any questions, please contact our Chair, Chris Whitehouse, at