European Union leaders have agreed to grant a Brexit extension until Jan. 31, 2020, with the option for the UK to leave earlier if a deal is ratified.
Donald Tusk, the president of the EU Council, announced the decision on Twitter on Monday morning.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has previously said he would prefer to be “dead in a ditch” than accept a delay to Brexit beyond Oct. 31.
But the prime minister was forced by parliament to ask for an extension to the Article 50 process amid concerns by members of parliament he could take the UK out of the EU without a Brexit deal at the end of this month.
The EU27 has agreed that it will accept the UK's request for a #Brexit flextension until 31 January 2020. The decision is expected to be formalised through a written procedure.
— Donald Tusk (@eucopresident) October 28, 2019
It comes ahead of a vote in the House of Commons on Monday afternoon on whether to back the prime minister’s plan for a December general election.
His election bid, to be made under the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act (FTPA), would require a two-thirds Commons majority – 434 MPs – for a snap poll on Dec. 12.
Labour’s lack of support for the proposal means it is likely to be defeated.
Johnson has already had two requests for an election refused, but the Liberal Democrats and Scottish National Party (SNP) have offered Johnson a way out of the deadlock.
Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson and the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford have put forward a tightly drafted bill that would grant an election on Dec. 9 – three days earlier than the prime minister’s suggested polling date.
The draft law, currently scheduled for Tuesday’s sitting, would require a simple majority of 320 MPs to support it in order to dissolve parliament – 114 fewer than under the FTPA “super majority” rules.
With the SNP and Lib Dems supporting the initiative, the bill is likely to pass even without Labour backing.
Downing Street indicated it could be willing to support the pro-Remain parties’ proposals in a possible compromise offer.
A Number 10 source said if the government’s request for an election was lost, “we will look at all options to get Brexit done including ideas similar to that proposed by other opposition parties.”
If passed on Tuesday, the SNP-Lib Dem Bill is likely to achieve Royal Assent by Thursday and Parliament would be dissolved by the end of the week for the first December poll in almost a century.
Its quick dissolution turnaround period would mean the Withdrawal Agreement Bill – the attempt to put Johnson’s Brexit deal with the EU into law – would fail to pass before Halloween.