LONDON – Ministers are insisting that the UK will leave the EU by the current Brexit deadline of October 31, despite the government being forced by parliament to ask the bloc for an extension. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson sent an unsigned letter requesting an extension after his Brexit strategy suffered a setback with a defeat in the House of Commons on Saturday.
European Council President Donald Tusk confirmed that he had received the letter and will start consulting EU leaders about “how to react”. Despite this, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and his fellow cabinet minister Michael Gove insisted on Sunday that the UK will leave the bloc by October 31.
Johnson’s request was accompanied by a second letter, signed by the Prime Minister, saying he believed a delay would be a mistake. Gove told Sky News that the government still had “the means and ability” to leave on October 31. Gove, who is in charge of no-deal planning, stated that “the prime minister’s determination is absolute” and the government’s “determined policy” is to meet that deadline.
“We know that the EU want us to leave, we know that we have a deal that allows us to leave,” Gove noted.
He added that he is triggering ‘Operation Yellowhammer’ to ramp up preparations for a potential no-deal Brexit. He said he is taking the measure because the UK can no longer guarantee the EU will grant an extension.
“And that is why, I will later today be chairing a cabinet committee meeting – extraordinarily, on a Sunday – in order to ensure that the next stage of our exit preparations and our preparedness for no deal is accelerated,” he stated.
“It means that we are triggering Operation Yellowhammer. It means that we are preparing to ensure that if no extension is granted – and we cannot guarantee that an extension will be granted – that we have done everything possible in order to prepare to leave without a deal,” he added.
His colleague Raab said he is confident that Brexit will go ahead on its current schedule, adding that many in the EU are deeply uncomfortable about a further delay.
“[Boris Johnson] has got that deal. We seem to have the numbers in the House of Commons. Why hasn’t parliament pushed this through? That is what we are going to do next week,” he told the BBC.