Boris Johnson has insisted that he will not delay Brexit, despite his lawyers saying he will comply with a law calling for the October 31 exit date to be postponed if there is no deal.
Are the two statements contradictory? And can Britain leave the European Union this month without an agreement?
– What is the state of play?
The European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act 2019 – known as the Benn Act – was fast-tracked through Parliament in a bid to prevent the Government from forcing through a no-deal Brexit.
It requires a delay to Brexit beyond October 31 unless a divorce deal is approved or Parliament agrees to leaving the EU without one by October 19.
The PM would have to send a letter to the president of the European Council requesting an extension to Article 50 until January 31 2020.
– What possible tactics could be deployed to avoid a delay?
Chancellor Sajid Javid joked at the Conservative Party conference that there could be more than five ways around the Benn Act, and other Cabinet ministers have hinted there may be a way of wriggling out of it.
Here is a look at some of the potential tactics.
1. EU law supremacy?
Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg told a fringe event at the Tory conference that “Article 50 and EU law overrides the Benn Act”.
As Article 50 is outlined in EU law, this could, if Mr Rees-Mogg’s assessment is correct, supersede the Benn Act.
2. Ask Brussels to reject an extension
Boris Johnson could fulfil the pledge to request an extension if a deal is not agreed by October 19, and then reject it.
It is thought he could do this by sending a second letter making clear the Government does not want a delay.
He could also veto the extension – or ask another member state to veto on his behalf.
3. A loophole in the law
The obligation on the Prime Minister to seek an extension will cease to exist if a deal is approved by Parliament on or before October 19.
However, the legislation would still need to pass Parliament before October 31 to avoid a no-deal exit.
It could fall at one of the many hurdles on the way – leading Britain to crash out at the end of the month.
– Could Boris Johnson get a deal?
Brussels has delivered a significant blow to the Prime Minister’s new Brexit proposals, as EU member states agreed they “do not provide a basis for concluding an agreement”.
A European Commission spokesman said discussions between the two sides would not take place this weekend but the UK will be given “another opportunity to present its proposals in detail” on Monday.
But Ireland’s deputy leader struck a more optimistic tone, denying it was “mission impossible” to reach a deal before the October 31 deadline.