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Boris Johnson remains bullish UK will meet Halloween Brexit deadline

Boris Johnson (Victoria Jones/PA)
Boris Johnson (Victoria Jones/PA)
From left: Dominic Raab, Sir Keir Starmer and Sir Oliver Letwin on the Andrew Marr Show
John McDonnell

By Shaun Connolly

Boris Johnson is striking a bullish Brexit stance as he faces another rollercoaster week, insisting the UK will still quit the EU 11 days from now.

Despite being forced to request a Brexit delay from Brussels, ministers talked up their chances of rushing Brexit legislation through the Commons.

A potential new Government showdown with Commons Speaker John Bercow looms today when he will rule on whether the Prime Minister can hold a "meaningful vote" on his Brexit deal.

Mr Johnson abandoned plans for such a move on a special Saturday sitting of the Commons after suffering an embarrassing defeat at the hands of former Tory minister Sir Oliver Letwin.

Labour is planning to try and hijack the Prime Minister's Brexit legislation when he presents it to MPs by tabling amendments demanding a new referendum and customs union with the EU.

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer indicated that Labour could even support the Withdrawal Agreement Bill if a new national poll on it is backed by MPs. Asked if he could guarantee that the UK would leave the EU by Halloween, Michael Gove 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 told Sky News' Sophy Ridge On Sunday: "We are going to leave by October 31.

"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."

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 yesterday: "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... be chairing a Cabinet committee meeting, extraordinarily on a Sunday, to ensure the next stage of our exit preparations and our preparedness for no-deal is accelerated. We are triggering Operation Yellowhammer."

After suffering the embarrassing defeat in the Commons over his Brexit plans, Mr Johnson got a senior diplomat to send an unsigned photocopy of a letter asking for an extension.

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

Mr Johnson had been legally required to send the letter as he had not gained the backing of MPs for his plan, and stressed to Brussels he was only sending it at Parliament's bidding.

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.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: "We seem to have the numbers in the House of Commons. A lot of people say 'Get this done and move on'."

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