Advertisement

  1. ITV Report

UK will leave EU by October 31 despite Commons setback insists Michael Gove

Michael Gove is in charge of no-deal Brexit preparations. Credit: PA

Michael Gove has insisted the UK will leave the EU by October 31 despite the Government asking the EU for a delay.

After suffering an embarrassing defeat in the Commons over his Brexit plans on Saturday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson got a senior diplomat to send an unsigned photocopy of a letter asking for an extension, with a cover note stressing his detachment from the move.

The Prime Minister came under fire for the move, with Labour's shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said Mr Johnson taken a "silly approach" and was "being childlike" in stressing to Brussels he was only sending the communication at Parliament’s bidding.

Boris Johnson did not sign the letter to Donald Tusk. Credit: UK Government/PA

In a second note to European Council President Donald Tusk, the PM said the delay requested would be “deeply corrosive”.

Mr Tusk confirmed he had received the letter, tweeting: “The extension request has just arrived.

"I will now start consulting EU leaders on how to react. #Brexit”

Sorry, this content isn't available on your device.

Asked if he could guarantee that the UK would leave the EU by Halloween, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said: “Yes, that’s our determined policy.

"We know that the EU want us to leave, we know that we have a deal that allows us to leave.”

Mr Gove - who is in charge of no-deal planning - told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday: “We are going to leave by October 31st.

"We have the means and the ability to do so and people who – yesterday we had some people who voted for delay, voted explicitly to try to frustrate this process and to drag it out.

“I think actually the mood in the country is clear and the Prime Minister’s determination is absolute and I am with him in this, we must leave by October 31st.”

He added: "We're going to deliver by the 31st October, we are going to ensure that we get this deal done and I'm confident that with the support of good people with whom we may have disagreed in the past, but who respect democracy we will get this deal done."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has repeatedly insisted the UK will leave the EU on Halloween. Credit: PA

Asked if he'd place money on this outcome, he added: "Yes, I have."

Pressed on how much, Mr Gove added: "Well that's between me and the Health Secretary."

The light-hearted exchange at the end of Mr Gove's interview leaves open the potentially awkward question of whether fellow Cabinet member Matt Hancock thinks the Government will be unable to secure its stated objective of "getting Brexit done" by the end of October.

Should the Government get the Brexit deal through Parliament, they are likely to need the votes of Labour MPs.

Labour's shadow Brexit secretary said his party could back the PM's deal if a new referendum was attached to it.

Sir Keir Starmer said Labour would push for a new EU referendum when the Government brings its Brexit plans to the Commons in the coming days.

The Holborn and St Pancras MP told ITV News that Labour's first priority was to "make sure the extension is granted" and then it would attach amendments to the PM's Brexit deal "to ensure that whatever deal gets through - if a deal gets through - that it is put back to the people in a referendum, where they're asked: 'Do you want to leave with this deal or wouldn't you rather remain?'"

Mr Johnson had been legally required to send the letter and stressed to Brussels he was only sending it at Parliament’s bidding.

The move came after a defiant Prime Minister told the Commons he will not negotiate a fresh Brexit extension with the EU.

Mr Johnson insisted that he was not “daunted or dismayed” by the vote result, and remained committed to taking Britain out by October 31.

“I will not negotiate a delay with the EU, neither does the law compel me to do so,” he said.

Michael Gove and Matt Hancock have a bet on Brexit. Credit: PA

Mr Johnson spoke after MPs voted by 322 to 306 in favour of an amendment withholding approval of his Brexit deal until legislation to implement it is in place in a special Saturday sitting of the Commons.

The Government was consigned to defeat after the 10 MPs of Mr Johnson’s erstwhile allies in the DUP joined the other opposition parties in voting for the amendment.

The party is furious about the proposed customs arrangements for Northern Ireland which would see checks on goods coming from the rest of the UK.

The amendment tabled by former Cabinet minister Sir Oliver Letwin was intended to force him to comply with the so-called Benn Act requiring the PM to seek a Brexit extension by 11pm on Saturday if Parliament had not approved his deal or requested no-deal.

The PM rang European leaders, including Mr Tusk, declaring that the letter “is Parliament’s letter, not my letter”.

How the House of Commons voted for the Letwin amendment. Credit: PA Graphic

Mr Gove claimed the parliamentary defeat had increased the risk of a no-deal Brexit and he was "triggering" Operation Yellowhammer - the Government's plan to deal with such a scenario.

He said: "The risk of leaving without a deal has actually increased because we cannot guarantee that the European Council will grant an extension.

"And that is why I will, later today, be chairing a Cabinet committee meeting, extraordinarily on a Sunday, in order to ensure that the next stage of our exit preparations and our preparedness for no-deal is accelerated.

"It means that we are triggering Operation Yellowhammer.

"It means that we are preparing to ensure that, if no extension is granted, we have done everything possible in order to prepare to leave without a deal."

Dominic Raab said the Government will get its deal through Parliament. Credit: BBC One/The Andrew Marr Show

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab agreed with his Cabinet colleague that the Government could get its deal through Parliament.

With the Withdrawal Agreement Bill set to go to the Commons in the coming days, Mr Raab told BBC One's The Andrew Marr Show: "We seem to have the numbers in the House of Commons.

"A lot of people say 'Get this done and move on'."

Former Cabinet minister Amber Rudd, who quit the Tory whip, said she would back Mr Johnson's deal.

The Government could hold a so-called "meaningful vote" on the agreement on Monday if Commons Speaker John Bercow allows it, after the Government chose not to press ahead with it on Saturday following its defeat on the Letwin amendment.

Amber Rudd said she will back the PM's deal. Credit: Sky News/Sophy Ridge on Sunday

Labour said it will push for a new EU referendum when the Government brings its Brexit plans to the Commons.

And shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer left open the possibility that the party could back Mr Johnson's deal if a new national poll was attached to it.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell accused Mr Johnson of "behaving a bit like a spoilt brat" in the way he communicated with Brussels over the extension request.

He said the PM could be in contempt of Parliament and the courts over the issue.

Asked if the EU was going to be open to an extension, its chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said Mr Tusk would consider the next stage.

He told reporters: "As foreseen, the EU ambassadors meet this morning to take the next steps of the (EU) ratification and tomorrow I will await the European Parliament."

As well as sending a letter to Mr Tusk on Saturday, Mr Johnson wrote to all Tory MPs and peers insisting that he will tell Brussels a further Brexit delay is “not a solution” to the situation.

In a letter to members of the Tory parliamentary party, the PM said: “I will tell the European Union what I have told the British public for my 88 days as Prime Minister: further delay is not a solution.”

He added: “It is quite possible that our friends in the European Union will reject Parliament’s request for a further delay (or not take a decision quickly).”

A letter written by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to MPs saying he will tell the EU that ‘further delay is not a solution’. Credit: Downing Street/PA

The PM also discussed the situation with French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday.

Mr Macron had previously suggested he would not support an extension.

Anti-Brexit protests in Parliament Square Credit: Led By Donkeys/PA

While Parliament sat at the weekend for the first time since the Falklands War, a mass protest converged on central London in a People’s Vote campaign march in support of a second referendum.