EU leaders agreed to extend Brexit until 31 January 2020; this now needs to be formally accepted by prime minister Boris Johnson.
The President of the European Council Donald Tusk called it a “flextension” as it allows the UK to leave before the deadline if the deal secured by Boris Johnson is approved before that date. Johnson formally accepted the new date on Monday and Tusk will now seek the formal consent by the EU 27.
Therefore, the UK will not leave the EU on Thursday, October 31.
Boris Johnson has repeatedly said the UK would leave on the said date “with or without a deal,” and failing to deliver could have political significance. However, this defeat will allow him to run on a hardline Leave platform.
Political parties are now expected to campaign on different versions of Brexit, promising a second referendum, to revoke Article 50, Johnson’s Withdrawal Agreement, or a no-deal Brexit.
The electorate is both polarized and energized. There are reports of two million voters registering to vote over the last eight weeks; of whom 58% are below the age of 34 and thus statistically more likely to favour a Remain platform. Only 7% are above 65, the demographic group where Leave is stronger.
The question is when elections will take place, with various tactical considerations.
Johnson’s proposal for elections on December 12 failed on Monday, as many of Labour Party MPs abstained. In the UK, the law requires a two-thirds majority for early elections to take place. Johnson will now propose a new law that lowers the threshold for calling new elections, which Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party are ready to support. However, the two parties could demand to lower the age of voting to include 16 and 17-year-olds, a demographic in which the Conservatives are weak.
Labour is ready to clear the way for elections once Johnson has formally accepted the Brexit extension and no deal is “off the table.”
Johnson will try again to push for an election with a so-called short bill that can pass with a simple majority, essentially amending electoral law. He will still have to reply on Liberals, the DUP and the SNP to pass it. It will then have to pass the House of Lords. Elections can take place 25-days after the bill has passed.