October 20, 2019 / 9:26 AM / a month ago

Britain is going to leave the EU by October 31 - Gove says

LONDON (Reuters) - Brexit will happen by October 31, British government minister Michael Gove said on Sunday, despite lawmakers forcing Prime Minister Boris Johnson to send a letter on Saturday to the EU requesting a delay.

Parliament thwarted Johnson’s attempt to secure backing for his EU divorce deal on Saturday, withholding their approval in order to trigger a law passed last month to force him to send a letter to the bloc asking to push back the deadline to Jan. 31.

The move was designed to remove any risk that Britain could leave without a deal on October 31.

“We are going to leave by October 31, we have the means and the ability to do so,” Gove, the minister in charge of no-deal Brexit preparations, told Sky News.

“That letter was sent because parliament required it to be sent (..) but parliament can’t change the prime minister’s mind, parliament can’t change the government’s policy or determination.”

Johnson sent a letter to the European Union requesting a delay as the law required, but he did not sign it and he added another note saying he did not want a “deeply corrosive” Brexit extension.

Gove said the risk of leaving without a deal had grown.

“We, if we had had our victory yesterday, would have been on a clear flight path towards a deal,” he said. “Now, as a result of that vote, we cannot guarantee any extension will be granted.”

FILE PHOTO: Britain's Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove speaks at the House of Commons as parliament discusses Brexit, sitting on a Saturday for the first time since the 1982 Falklands War, in London, Britain, October 19, 2019, in this screen grab taken from video. Parliament TV via REUTERS

The president of the European Council Donald Tusk said he would consult EU leaders before responding to Johnson’s letter. However, it was unlikely that the EU’s 27 remaining member states would refuse Britain’s delay request.

Gove said government would now step up preparations for a no-deal Brexit, including triggering its “Operation Yellowhammer” contingency plans.

“The risk of leaving without a deal has actually increased because we cannot guarantee that the European Council will grant an extension, that is why I will later today be chairing a Cabinet committee meeting (...) in order to ensure that the next stage of our exit preparations, our preparedness for a no-deal, is accelerated,” he said.

Reporting by Paul Sandle and Kylie MacLellan; Editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Jane Merriman

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