European Union (EU) ambassadors meeting in Brussels on Friday agreed in principle to allow the UK to delay Brexit beyond October 31 but will announce the length of the extension only next week. The EU's move is expected to have a strong bearing in the UK Parliament, which is likely to vote on British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's December 12 General Election demand early next week.
"What I can tell you is that the EU27 have agreed to the principle of an extension and work will continue in the coming days. The intention is to take this decision by written procedure," a European Commission spokesperson told reporters at the EU headquarters in Brussels.
Johnson had formally requested the delay after being forced to by a law designed to prevent a no-deal Brexit if the House of Commons had failed to pass through a withdrawal agreement in time for October 31.
However, he has been insisting he does not want to delay the UK's departure beyond the month-end deadline, something that may now become an inevitability. Most of the remaining 27 EU countries favour a three-month delay until January 2020, which is the amount of time specified in the so-called Benn Act that forced Johnson to request the extension.
However, there are reports of resistance from French President Emmanuel Macron, who favours a shorter extension until the middle or end of November, to reflect the EU's frustration with continued delay to Brexit.
On Thursday, Johnson offered MPs more time to debate his Brexit Bill but only if they agree to a General Election on December 12. The way to get Brexit done is, I think, to be reasonable with Parliament and say if they genuinely want more time to study this excellent deal, they can have it, but they have to agree to a General Election on 12 December," said Johnson.
It's time frankly that the Opposition summoned up the nerve to submit themselves to the judgement of our collective boss, which is the people of the UK, he said.
Johnson had struck a renewed withdrawal agreement with the EU last week, which ditched the controversial Irish backstop clause, and went on in theory to find the backing of MPs in a vote 329 to 299 earlier this week. But having lost the crucial fast-track timetable vote attached to it meant he lost out on his do or die pledge to get Brexit done by the end of October.
Under the UK's Fixed Term Parliament Act, he would require the Parliament's backing for an early election.
And, given his lack of majority in Parliament, the prospect of such a bill passing through is not entirely certain.
"We would campaign day after day for the people of this country to be released from subjection to a Parliament that has outlived its usefulness," Johnson said, in reference to the prospect of his election bid failing to clear the Commons hurdle.
In a Twitter statement, he went on to release a letter to Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn calling on him to end this nightmare and provide a solution.
Following the Brussels announcement on Friday, he again urged Corbyn to vote for a snap December poll, calling on him to "man up" and agree to his election proposal.
"Nobody will believe that the Labour Party is really going to allow Brexit to happen unless there is a deadline of an election on 12 December," he said.
Corbyn said he is only prepared to agree to an election once the UK Prime Minister had completely ruled out "to my satisfaction" the possibility of a no-deal crash-out Brexit.
"My position is we've got to get no-deal taken off the table first," Corbyn said in reference to the election demand.
"Providing the Prime Minister comes to Parliament on Monday and makes it absolutely clear he is going to make sure that there is no crash out because his deal includes the possibility of a no-deal exit... if he comes on Monday and says that, then OK," he said.
If the UK misses the October 31 Brexit deadline, this would be the third major timeline since the March-end date for Brexit to be missed due to lack of agreement in the UK Parliament on the so-called divorce bill between the UK and EU.