EU member states on Wednesday delayed a decision on whether to grant Britain a three-month Brexit extension, while Prime Minister Boris Johnson said if the deadline is deferred to the end of January he would call an election by Christmas.
Britain appears closer than ever to resolving its 3-1/2-year Brexit conundrum, after Johnson clinched a deal with the European Union on the terms of its exit last week and secured an early signal of support for it from parliament.
But there are still hurdles to clear, and Johnson’s ability to deliver on a “do-or-die” pledge to get Britain out of the EU by Oct. 31 is in doubt, after parliament rejected a three-day timetable to enact his agreement on Tuesday.
European Council President Donald Tusk said on Twitter he was recommending that the leaders of the EU’s 27 other member states back a delay, which Johnson says he does not want but was forced by parliament to request.
Senior EU diplomats said the most likely scenario was that the bloc would grant a three-month delay, with Britain permitted to leave sooner if it could enact legislation faster. There was also a chance that some EU countries, notably France, could demand a shorter extension, possibly of just days or weeks.
Johnson’s spokesman said if the EU offers a delay until the end of January there would need to be an election in Britain, and this could be held before Christmas.