Angela Merkel dropped a Brexit bombshell on Westminster today, revealing EU leaders would delay the UK’s departure again if MPs fail to pass Boris Johnson’s deal.
Her intervention came hours after European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker appeared to rule out any more delays past October 31.
In remarks that offer a lifeline to Remainers ahead of Saturday’s crunch vote in the Commons, the German Chancellor is said to have made the remarks at the European Council in Brussels.
It would mean they could oppose the deal without risking a No Deal Brexit on October 31.
Her suggestion, reported by the Guardian, came amid confusion over whether the UK would be kept in the EU into November if Mr Johnson failed to win over Tory rebels and Labour Leave supporters in large enough numbers on Super Saturday.
While the summit significantly avoided pointing to any delay, it also fell short of categorically ruling one out if Mr Johnson loses his Commons vote.
European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker had told reporters there will be no ‘prolongation’. Asked if he believed Parliament would approve the deal, he said: ‘I hope it will, I’m convinced it will. It has to.
‘Anyway there will be no prolongation. We have concluded a deal and so there is not an argument for further delay – it has to be done now.’
But European Council president Donald Tusk said any request for a delay would be considered if it is made.
The German Chancellor (left, with Emmanuel Macron and Xavier Bettel) is said to have made the remarks at the European Council in Belgium last night
While the summit significantly avoided pointing to any delay, it also fell short of categorically ruling one out if Mr Johnson loses his Commons vote
With no chance of an extension, anti-No Deal MPs would face huge pressure to give their support to Mr Johnson’s agreement.
The final decision on whether an extension would be offered ultimately rests with the EU heads of state.
Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, said last night that ‘if there is a request for an extension I will consult member states to see how to react’.
But Mr Juncker’s comments suggest that the EU does view Saturday’s vote as the last chance saloon for an orderly Brexit.
Should Mr Johnson be defeated in the Commons he will then have to decide what to do next: Try to renegotiate an improved version of the deal or switch to calling for a No Deal Brexit.
If he does the latter, believing that the EU will not budge any further, then he will likely need to force an early election to deliver it.
Boris Johnson is entering the most crucial 24 hours of his premiership as he attempts to get his Brexit deal over the line with the help of Labour rebels.
The Prime Minister is said to have begun attempts to entice Jeremy Corbyn’s backbenchers from Leave areas in the North and Midlands to side with him and get the UK out of the EU.
He is said to have suggested measures to protect workers’ rights in a bid to placate opposition MPs and get them on his side.
But even with Labour rebellion he faces an uphill task in Saturday’s historic Commons vote, with his supposed allies the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) confirming they will line up alongside Mr Corbyn to oppose it.
The hardline Northern Irish loyalists are furious as what they see as Mr Johnson’s sell-out of the province in the deal struck in Brussels yesterday.
DUP MP Sammy Wilson told Italian paper La Repubblica the party would not abstain – which would have helped the Government – but would stand ‘solid as the Rock of Gibraltar’ against it.
The DUP Brexit spokesman told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I can give you absolute assurance we will not be voting for this deal when it comes before the Commons tomorrow.’
Reports suggest that the DUP believes as many as 15 members of the Tory European Research Group of hardline Brexiteers will join it in voting against the deal, despite being threatened with the loss of the party whip.
And Mr Johnson faces another blow this morning when an influential collective of Tory eurosceptics urged MPs to vote the deal down.
The Thatcherite Bruges Group, which includes MPs John Redwood, Norman Tebbit and Lord Lamont, revealed this morning that it opposes Mr Johnson’s deal.
In a joint statement with the Bow Group and Fishing for Leave, its chairman Barry Legg said: ‘We urge members of Parliament who wish to honour the result of the Referendum to reject this defective agreement if it is put before them.’
But one Tory moderate, who is backing the deal despite misgivings, urged ‘Spartans’ to give up on their ‘wet dream’ of forcing No Deal.
‘The “no extension “ from Juncker is a two-edged sword: for Redwood, Chope and Paterson it means if the PM is defeated tomorrow we leave with no Deal which is their wet dream moment,’ they told MailOnline. ‘Hopefully more Labour people will get it and therefore vote for it. It will be tight but doable – just.’