The U.K. government has had 1,201 days to try and negotiate a deal to leave the EU. But with just 22 days to go before the Brexit deadline, it looks increasingly likely that the U.K. will crash out without a deal.
As negotiations between London and Brussels ground to a screeching halt this week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday morning called for a Saturday sitting of parliament, which hasn’t happened since the outbreak of the Falklands war.
The decision came as Johnson and his government await for Europe to respond to the proposal he submitted to Brussels last week, but on Tuesday night, the writing was already on the wall.
Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told broadcaster RTE that it was going to be “very difficult” to secure a Brexit deal before next week’s EU summit.
Speaking after getting off a 45-minute phone call with Johnson, the Irish leader said “a wide difference” remained between London and Brussels after Johnson’s government submitted its revised Brexit deal.
The U.K. is scheduled to leave the EU on Oct. 31, but if it wants to leave with a deal, it will need to agree on the details of a new withdrawal agreement by Oct. 17, when an EU summit will take place.
The U.K. submitted a revised deal to the EU last week and the bloc said it would make its position clear on the proposition by the end of this week, but after just a couple of days of talks between the two sides, negotiations have broken down.
The already strained relations between London and Brussels were stretched even further on, Tuesday when Downing Street leaked details of a private call between Johnson and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The British government claimed Merkel had made a deal “essentially impossible” after claiming a withdrawal based on the U.K.’s new proposal was “overwhelmingly unlikely.”
Critics across Europe slammed Downing Street’s decision to leak the conversation, claiming they had mischaracterized Merkel’s comments in a bid to blame the EU for failing to agree on a deal.
President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, accused Johnson of playing a “stupid blame game.”
With no new talks scheduled and the deadline for a deal looming, the U.K. government is preparing for all eventualities.
Downing Street announced Wednesday that it intends to ask MPs to approve a plan to have parliament sit on Oct. 19, meaning it would sit on a Saturday for only the fourth time in its history.
The Oct. 19 sitting will be a critical day for Brexit, with Johnson likely to present a series of options to lawmakers: If Johnson somehow manages to secure a deal with the EU at the summit in Brussels, he will then bring it back to London on the 19th for MPs to approve it.
If no deal has been secured, Johnson is reportedly preparing to offer lawmakers a series of options, including revoking Article 50 in order to reverse Brexit; or continuing without a deal and crashing out on Oct. 31.
The situation is complicated by the fact that a new law prevents Johnson from crashing out without a deal. Johnson says he won’t ask Brussels for an extension, and says he will obey the law — but he has not explained how he will resolve this contradiction.
Cover: Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks to mental health professionals during his visit to Watford General Hospital, in Watford, Monday, Oct. 7, 2019. Britain and the European Union appeared to be poles apart Monday on a potential Brexit deal, with the Dutch government urging the British government to offer "more realism and clarity," and U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisting the bloc has to soften its stance. (Peter Summers/Pool Photo via AP)