Macron Says U.K. Shouldn’t Get New Delay If Johnson Loses Vote

Helene Fouquet and Ian Wishart
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Macron Says U.K. Shouldn’t Get New Delay If Johnson Loses Vote

(Bloomberg) -- French President Emmanuel Macron heaped pressure on the British Parliament to back Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal, saying the U.K.’s departure from the European Union shouldn’t be delayed a moment longer.

With Parliament due to vote on the revised agreement on Saturday, Macron’s remarks echoed the message Johnson himself has been sending to reticent MPs: it’s now or never.

"I don’t think a new extension should be granted," Macron told reporters after a summit of EU leaders in Brussels, where the deal had been rubber stamped. "The Oct. 31 deadline must be met."

Macron’s stance increases the risk that the U.K. will crash out of the EU without a deal on Oct. 31. But the reality is more nuanced, according to EU diplomats who doubt the bloc will ever throw the U.K. off a cliff without a safety net. The pound dipped on the comments, and then recovered.

Selling the Deal

After sealing a revised deal with the EU on Thursday, Johnson is spending Friday frantically talking to politicians from his own and other parties as he tries to rustle up a majority. The prime minister needs to add 61 votes to the tally his predecessor Theresa May managed when her version of the Brexit deal was defeated for a third and final time in March.

The new agreement differs from May’s agreement because only Northern Ireland rather than the whole U.K. will continue to apply the EU’s customs rules. That’s upset the province’s Democratic Unionist Party whose MPs say they won’t back Johnson’s deal on Saturday.

If Johnson loses the vote, he’s obliged by law to request from the EU another extension by the end of the day. But any postponement must be approved unanimously by the EU’s 27 leaders so Macron would have a veto.

EU officials were expecting such an intervention by Macron, who made similar noises before approving a Brexit delay in April, but they said that it’s very unlikely that he or any other leader would prevent another one, particularly if the U.K. was headed for a general election. While the bloc is just as keen to get Britain’s departure over the line as Johnson, it considers a no-deal exit in two weeks a far worse prospect than another postponement.

Envoys from the 27 remaining countries and the European Commission are due to meet on Sunday to discuss next steps should Johnson’s deal fall.

The French have consistently taken a hard line in Brexit negotiations and Macron argues that the tight deadline he insisted on the last time the process was extended helped force Johnson into concessions. Several EU governments privately now regret delaying Brexit from April until October, acknowledging that it took the pressure of the U.K. to pass a deal.

"I was alone and I don’t think I was wrong," Macron said, referring to the decision six months ago.

Other leaders were more circumspect on the issue, with Leo Varadkar, the prime minister of Ireland, which stands to be affected most by a no-deal Brexit, saying a delay isn’t guaranteed and Luxembourg premier Xavier Bettel insisting the ball was now in the U.K. Parliament’s court.

“We have done our job,” he said. “There’s a plan A, but there’s no plan B."

(Updates with context throughout.)

--With assistance from Stephanie Bodoni.

To contact the reporters on this story: Helene Fouquet in Paris at hfouquet1@bloomberg.net;Ian Wishart in Brussels at iwishart@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Ben Sills at bsills@bloomberg.net

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