A crunch Brexit week looms with drama in London and Brussels
LONDON (AP) — The next seven days look set to be one of the most tumultuous weeks in more than three years of Brexit drama. Get ready for nail-biting diplomacy and high-stakes politics — with a dash of regal pomp thrown in for good measure.
With Britain due to leave the EU on Oct. 31 and talks about securing a divorce deal hanging in the balance, here’s a look at what could happen in the week ahead.
MONDAY, OCT. 14
The week opens with the comforting trappings of British political tradition, featuring a monarch in a horse-drawn carriage, a diamond-studded crown and lords in ermine capes.
Parliament returns from a brief break for the State Opening of Parliament, a mix of politics and pageantry at which Queen Elizabeth II, seated on a golden throne, reads a speech written by the government outlining its plans for the year ahead.
After three years in which Brexit has dominated British politics to the exclusion of other vital issues, Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants the speech to give a vision of his plans for the U.K. after it leaves the European Union. It will include a Brexit bill to ratify any divorce deal with the EU, but also legislation on crime, immigration, health care, the environment and Britain’s railways.
Johnson’s opponents say the speech is little more than a stunt because the Conservative government lacks a majority in Parliament, making an election likely in the next few months, before most of the proposed bills can become law. Whoever won that vote would start again with a new program and a fresh queen’s speech.
“What we have got in effect is a party-political broadcast from the steps of the throne,” opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said Sunday.
In Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron is due to meet European Council President Donald Tusk.
TUESDAY, OCT. 15
As British lawmakers hold a debate on the queen’s speech, scheduled to last several days, EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier will update ministers from the 27 other member states on the progress of Brexit talks at a meeting in Luxembourg.
WEDNESDAY, OCT. 16
Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merke, two of the most important EU leaders in determining the course of Brexit, meet as their two governments hold a joint meeting, a day before a crunch EU summit.
THURSDAY, OCT. 17
With two weeks to go until the Brexit deadline, leaders of all 28 EU countries gather in Brussels for a two-day summit with Brexit at the center of the agenda.
Johnson won’t be in the room when the 27 other leaders discuss whether to strike a deal with his government. The key stumbling block has been finding a way to keep the border between the U.K.’s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland free of customs checks and other barriers once Britain leaves the EU. In recent days, both sides have moved towards compromise, but it may not be enough to bridge the gap between their positions.
EU leaders may also consider whether to grant a delay to the U.K.’s departure date — already twice-postponed — if Britain asks for one. Many are reluctant to prolong the Brexit saga, but also want to avoid the economic pain of a no-deal Brexit.
FRIDAY. OCT. 18
The EU leaders’ Brexit discussion is likely to stretch into Friday. By some point that day, the British government and public should know what the 27 have decided.
SATURDAY, OCT. 19
Thousands of pro-EU demonstrators are due to gather outside Parliament in London to call for a new referendum on whether to leave the EU or remain.
Inside, British lawmakers will meet on a Saturday for the first time since the Falklands War in 1982. If the government and the EU have struck a deal, legislators will be asked to approve it. If there is no divorce agreement, Johnson could ask Parliament to back a no-deal Brexit on Oct. 31 — something it is highly unlikely to do.
Most lawmakers fear leaving the EU without an agreement would hurt the British economy, and Parliament has several times voted to reject a no-deal Brexit. But so far lawmakers haven’t agreed on what to do instead: some favor a Brexit deal, others want a new referendum and still others would like to cancel Brexit altogether.
The main opposition Labour Party says it might try to make support for Johnson’s divorce deal contingent on a new referendum on whether to leave the EU or remain.
Parliament has already passed a law saying that if there is no Brexit deal by Saturday, the government must ask the EU to delay Britain’s departure date. Johnson says he won’t do that, but also promises to obey the law.
That contradiction could mean Johnson plans to challenge the legislation in court. His opponents say they will seek a court order compelling Johnson to comply with the law if he doesn’t send a letter to the EU by Monday Oct. 21.
Opposition parties are also contemplating a no-confidence vote in the government. If Johnson lost, the opposition could try to form a national-unity government, or there could be an election.
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