how Boris Johnson and the Europeans hope to make up for Saturday's setback

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At the price of a disconcerting maneuver, the British government intends to propose a vote to ratify the agreement again in the House of Commons, early this week.

By Cécile Ducourtieux and Virginie Malingre Published today at 17h50 – Updated 21 October 2019 at 01h10

Time to Play 7 min.

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The British Prime Minister at the special sitting in the House of Commons, Saturday, October 19, 2019.
The British Prime Minister at the special sitting in the House of Commons, Saturday, October 19, 2019. Jessica Taylor / AP

Not one, not even two, but three. These are three letters that Boris Johnson sent to the presidency of the European Council, Saturday, October 19 just before midnight (Brussels time), at the end of "Super saturday" in Westminster, which ended for him in a calamitous way.

The British Prime Minister could have seen his efforts crowned with a vote validating his miraculous agreement with the Europeans, but this sitting in the House of Commons was cut short, a majority of 322 deputies voting for a postponement of this crucial vote, and forcing Mr. Johnson to demand a new Brexit deadline, this time to January 31, 2020, in order to comply with the Benn law, voted against his will at the beginning of September.

The first form-like letter, without a Downing Street letterhead and not signed by Mr. Johnson, calls for a two-paragraph postponement, in language incomprehensible to the uninitiated, of Brexit as of January 31, 2020.

The second, which bears the signature of Boris Johnson, much longer and much more friendly, specifies that "Dear Donald" (Tusk, the President of the Council), how much the Prime Minister does not want this shift Brexit, he who for two and a half months promises the British daily that they will have a divorce for Halloween. An offset would be "Corrosive", opposite "To the interest of the United Kingdom and the European Union and deteriorate our relations", says this letter.

The third letter is addressed by Tim Barrow, the representative of the British Government in Brussels, to the Secretary-General of the European Council, and specifies that legislation to include the Brexit Agreement in the UK law will be introduced. "In Parliament next week".

A baroque maneuver

"It's a sophisticated architecture" had fun diplomat Sunday about the three letters, "We will regret the British, there is intellectual stimulation". If the maneuver is baroque, the intention is clear. With these contradictory missives, Mr. Johnson and his advisers wanted to comply with the letter of the Benn Act, but signify that they do not agree with him.

"The Prime Minister must obey the law, that's why the government sends the letter, but (the Benn Act) does not claim that it changes policy, so it does not change policy. And he does not say he has to sign the letter, " said a government source at Sunday Times.

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