The UK Prime Minister did so kicking and screaming — all the while making clear who he believes is to blame for this delay: opposition lawmakers.
Having failed to get his new Brexit deal approved by Parliament on Saturday, Johnson was legally obliged to request the extension. His opponents in Parliament had previously passed legislation, referred to as the Benn Act, that instructed Johnson to send a letter to Brussels requesting the extension if no formal deal had been approved by 11 p.m. on Saturday.
And those same opponents sealed the PM’s fate, when they voted in favor of an amendment to Johnson’s deal by Oliver Letwin, which made meeting that deadline impossible.
The UK, in fact, sent three letters. A cover letter from Johnson’s top diplomat in Brussels explained that the PM was complying with the law. Second, a photocopy of the exact wording in the Benn act, unsigned by the PM. And finally, a personal letter from Johnson to all European Union leaders saying that he was still pressing ahead with his goal of leaving the EU on October 31 and that further delay would be corrosive.
Johnson, it appears, is trying to turn Saturday’s defeat into victory. His repeated message that this was Parliament’s decision, not his, is not just for MPs in London or EU leaders to read. For months, Johnson has been painting a very clear picture to the public of him being a man fighting tooth and nail to get Brexit done by October 31, and opposition MPs as Brexit thieves, stealing Brexit from the people.