Ireland’s Taoiseach will meet the UK’s Prime Minister later today in a bid to try and salvage a Brexit deal before next week’s EU leaders’ summit.
Leo Varadkar and Boris Johnson will hold “detailed discussions” in Cheshire focusing on what is proving to be the main sticking point for an agreement: arrangements for the Irish border and customs checks on the island.
The talks herald the start of a “final phase” in the Brexit saga with key dates fast approaching and time running out before the UK is due to leave the EU on October 31.
Brexit key dates
Today, October 10
Varadkar and Johnson hold talks focused on the UK’s Brexit proposals and solution to the Irish backstop. The Taoiseach has already said it will be “very difficult” to reach an agreement while the EU said the ideas so far floated in Johnson’s most recent proposals require “fundamental changes” if they are to be accepted.
Monday, October 14
The Queen’s Speech will lay out the Conservative government’s legislative plan for the next parliament, as MPs return to the House of Commons.
Jeremy Corbyn is to accuse Johnson of “using the Queen” in a speech later today (October 10), in which he is expected to say: “This government isn’t going to put any legislation before Parliament…holding a Queen’s Speech before an election is a cynical stunt.”
MPs will debate the Queen’s Speech during the following days while Johnson prepares to head to Brussels.
Thursday, October 17
The start of the two-day EU leaders’ summit. The meeting is seen as the make-or-break date given it will be the last opportunity for all the EU leaders to gather, negotiate and agree any possible deal before the Brexit deadline.
Saturday, October 19
The so-called “Super Saturday” could well be Johnson’s “dead in a ditch” day.
MPs will sit on a Saturday – for only the fourth time since 1939 – to debate and approve any deal Johnson might manage to take back from the EU leaders’ summit.
It is being seen as the “decisive moment” in the whole Brexit process and specifically for Johnson who has been adamantly asserting he will not ask the EU for an extension, should MPs fail to back him in the Commons.
However, the Benn Act compels the prime minister to send a letter asking for the extension to ensure the UK does not crash out of the EU on October 31 without a deal.
Johnson has previously said he would rather be found “dead in a ditch” than send the letter and has insisted the UK will leave on Halloween “do-or-die…deal or no-deal”.
“The idea that the prime minister will defy the law yet again is something that needs to be borne in mind,” said Corbyn, referring to the unlawful proroguing of Parliament last month.
It is possible Johnson could resign as PM before midnight on October 19, thereby removing himself from this duty.
October 19 is also the day for the People’s Vote campaign march in London that is expected to draw massive crowds to demonstrate for a second referendum outside the Houses of Parliament.
Thursday, October 31
Halloween is the deadline day when, depending on what happens in the run-up to it, the UK will either finally leave the EU with or without a deal – or see an extension to the date as laid out under the terms of the Benn Act, but only if the EU agrees to the extension.