U.K. Tory Suggests Johnson Could Execute Surprise August Brexit

Robert Hutton

(Bloomberg) -- A senior U.K. Conservative suggested Boris Johnson could take Britain out of the European Union in the next 10 days -- without a deal -- as a surprise maneuver to outflank his opponents in parliament.

Tom Tugendhat, chairman of Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, floated the idea on Twitter that Johnson could deliver Brexit before the Group of Seven summit begins on Aug. 24, and then call a general election afterward. “What odds would you give?” asked Tugendhat, a backbench member of the premier’s party.

Johnson has vowed to take Britain out of the bloc on Oct. 31 -- the current deadline -- “do or die,” without a deal if need be. Once Parliament has returned on Sept. 3, moves will begin from Johnson’s internal Conservative opponents to try to stop a no-deal Brexit. Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond said Wednesday he was confident there was a route to doing this.

According to Tugendhat -- who also opposes a no-deal Brexit -- the prime minister needs no authorization from Parliament -- which is currently on vacation -- to end Britain’s EU membership before lawmakers return from their recess.

The problem with a move would be that it would take industry and the markets by surprise as well. Businesses might struggle to adapt to the sudden change of regulatory environment, delivered without warning. And if a no-deal Brexit did lead to border chaos, doing it in August would hit voters as they traveled to and from their summer vacations.

There are also questions about whether Tugendhat’s interpretation of the law is correct. Steve Peers, Professor of EU, Human Rights & World Trade Law at Essex University, replied to him that the EU would have to agree.

Johnson’s office didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

To contact the reporter on this story: Robert Hutton in London at rhutton1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Alex Morales, Jessica Shankleman

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