Delaying Brexit will mean a year of “chaos and cacophony” in 2020, with a second referendum on Scottish independence as well as another vote on the EU, Boris Johnson will warn today with a possible no-deal scenario less than a month away.
In what is likely to form the central message of a snap general election campaign, the Prime Minister will claim that Jeremy Corbyn would usher in “years of uncertainty” and immediately put the breakup of the UK on the table to secure the SNP’s support for his premiership.
In his end-of-conference speech to Tory members gathered in Manchester, Mr Johnson will announce that the UK has sent formal legal texts to the EU setting out the UK’s “final offer” on a Brexit deal.
However, proposals leaked to the media have already been firmly rejected by the Irish government, setting Mr Johnson up for a major clash at an EU summit in Brussels in two weeks – and with MPs, who have passed legislation requiring him to request a Brexit delay, which he says he will not ask for.
And a fresh legal battle looms to force the government to comply with legislation to push back the 31 October Brexit date, with the start of a case at the Court of Session set for Friday.
“Voters are desperate for us to focus on their other priorities – what people want, what Leavers want, what Remainers want, what the whole world wants – is to move on,” Mr Johnson will say.
“That is why we are coming out of the EU on October 31. Let’s get Brexit done – we can, we must and we will.
“Corbyn wants to turn the whole of 2020, which should be a great year for this country, into the chaos and cacophony of two more referendums – a second referendum on Scottish independence, even though the people of Scotland were promised that the 2014 vote would be a once in a generation vote, and a second referendum on the EU, even though we were promised that the 2016 vote would be a once in a generation vote.
“Can you imagine another three years of this? That is the Corbyn agenda – stay in the EU beyond October 31, paying a billion pounds a month for the privilege, followed by years of uncertainty for business and everyone else.”
Second independence referendum
The UK government and the Scottish Tories will refuse to comment on the circumstances under which powers to hold a second independence referendum will be granted, according to reports.
An agreement has been reached between Downing Street’s “Union unit”, led by former Scottish Conservative adviser Elliot Roy, and the party in Edinburgh not to discuss “arbitrary red lines” that would “trigger” indyref2.
Nicola Sturgeon is expected to make a formal request for powers under Section 30 of the Scotland Act before Christmas, as part of her timetable to hold a second referendum by 2021.
Downing Street made clear that there would be no further negotiation with the EU if the Brexit proposals submitted today are rejected.
And the government warned the EU it would be breaching convention by considering a request to delay Brexit that did not come from the UK government.
“The government is either going to be negotiating a new deal or working on no deal — nobody will work on delay,” a senior Number 10 official said.
“We will keep fighting to respect the biggest democratic vote in British history.
“The EU is obliged by EU law only to negotiate with member state governments, they cannot negotiate with Parliament, and this government will not negotiate delay.”
In his speech tomorrow, Mr Johnson is expected to add: “My friends, I am afraid that after three and a half years people are beginning to feel that they are being taken for fools.
“They are beginning to suspect that there are forces in this country that simply don’t want Brexit delivered at all.
“And if they turn out to be right in that suspicion then I believe there will be grave consequences for trust in democracy.
“Let’s get Brexit done on October 31 so in 2020 our country can move on.”
The Benn Act
Yesterday, Mr Johnson urged leaders in Brussels, Dublin and Berlin to work with him as the “rubber hits the road” in his bid to take the UK out of the EU by 31 October.
In interviews, he acknowledged that he faced “tough” negotiations with Brussels as he prepares to set out his formal proposals for a Brexit deal.
But he said it would soon become apparent if there is “no way of getting [a deal] over the line from their point of view”.
The Times reported that Mr Johnson’s plan to get around the Benn Act – the law aimed at preventing a no-deal Brexit without MPs’ approval – would be to ask EU leaders to rule out any extension to the 31 October deadline.
Yesterday Mr Johnson denied that was the case, adding: “In truth, we have not made any such request.”
But he did appear to question whether the Benn Act had been drawn up in collaboration with other EU states following claims from Downing Street sources of “collusion with foreign powers”.
There is a “legitimate question” to be asked about how the legislation came about, he said.
Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg has said EU law and Article 50 supersede the Benn Act.
Speaking to the ConservativeHome podcast, Mr Rees-Mogg said the situation was “very straightforward”.
Despite this, Mr Rees-Mogg also admitted that the he does not see any “easy and obvious loophole” the government could use to get around the Benn Act.
The Benn Act says that the Prime Minister must ask the EU for an extension of the Article 50 negotiating period by 19 October, unless Parliament has approved a deal or a no-deal Brexit.
Mr Rees-Mogg admitted: “The law is the law as it is.
“There is the very important question of how it interacts with EU law, but there is no easy and obvious loophole that I can sit here and tell you we can use, because if there is, I haven’t spotted it.”