Downing Street has claimed Boris Johnson could ensure the UK leaves the EU on October 31 come what may while also complying with the law aimed at preventing a no-deal Brexit.
Here we look at what could happen in the coming weeks.
– What is the state of play?
The European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act 2019 was fast-tracked through Parliament in a bid to prevent the Government from forcing through a no-deal Brexit.
It requires a delay to Brexit beyond October 31 unless a divorce deal is approved or Parliament agrees to leaving the EU without one by October 19.
The PM would have to send a letter to the president of the European Council requesting an extension to Article 50 until January 31 2020.
– What has Mr Johnson’s response to this been?
The PM has cast doubt on how the Government will seek to abide by the legislation, and labelled it the “surrender Bill” as he believes it takes away control of the UK’s negotiations with the EU by allowing Parliament to block no deal – viewed as a key negotiating tactic.
Mr Johnson has continued to insist the UK will leave the EU on October 31, deal or no deal.
– What options are available to him?
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman has refused to explain how Mr Johnson could guarantee a Halloween Brexit and also comply with the law.
If Mr Johnson was able to secure a new deal with the EU, which would probably need changes to the controversial Northern Ireland backstop, then a route opens up for an October 31 departure.
Currently, EU figures have said they have yet to receive concrete proposals from Mr Johnson.
– What is the Government doing about the law approved by MPs?
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab claimed the legislation is “deeply, deeply flawed” and the Government is examining the “precise implications” of it.
They will be hoping to find a way which enables them to comply with the provisions of the law, while nullifying its main aim of blocking a no-deal Brexit on October 31.
It has been suggested the letter asking for an extension could be sabotaged – with another document sent alongside it stating the UK does not want an extension.
– What about the EU’s response?
Any extension to the Brexit process has to be agreed by all 27 other EU member states, and they have repeatedly stated there must be a purpose to a second extension.
If one member state says no to an extension then it will not be offered.
In such a situation, the UK could ask for an extension, find it is rejected, and then leave on October 31.
– Any further options available?
Mr Johnson could resign as Prime Minister and create a situation where someone else would have to send the letter asking for an extension. Such a move could trigger a general election, although it does not guarantee a no-deal Brexit on October 31.
MPs have also floated the idea of bringing back Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement to the Commons for a fourth time, albeit with compromises agreed following cross-party talks. Some Labour MPs have signalled they would now back this deal although it is unclear whether it would command a majority.