Court to Hear Boris Johnson’s Plan as Deal Optimism Wanes: Brexit Update

Court to Hear Boris Johnson’s Plan as Deal Optimism Wanes: Brexit Update

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Boris Johnson’s lawyers are due to tell the Supreme Court what his government will do if it loses a landmark case over the decision to suspend Parliament. A ruling against Johnson could immediately restrict his Brexit options, and even undermine his premiership as the U.K. heads toward an expected general election in the fall.

The British government insists securing a divorce deal with the European Union is the best way out of the impasse, but officials are increasingly pessimistic about the chances of a breakthrough ahead of the Oct. 31 Brexit deadline. Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said there’s “growing frustration” within the EU toward the U.K. and that a “significant gap” remains between two sides.

Key Developments:

Third and final day of Supreme Court hearings has begun, click here for a live stream. No timing has been given for a rulingFormer Prime Minister John Major told the court in a written submission it would be “naive” to believe Johnson on the suspension; his lawyers are due to speak after 12 p.mBrexit Secretary Steve Barclay said both the U.K. and EU must accept some risk to get a dealIrish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said British proposals to solve the impasse over the post-Brexit Irish border lack credibility so far

Confusion Over Government’s Court Plan (11 a.m.)

There’s significant confusion over whether the government will actually publish what it plans to do if it loses the Supreme Court case on Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament.

While staff in the Supreme Court said the document would be published by the attorney general, his office said that wasn’t the case. And government lawyers told reporters the document would be published “at some point this morning” by the Supreme Court itself. Meanwhile, all parties to the case have seen the document filed to the court.

Anti-Brexit Lib Dems Leapfrog Labour in Poll (10:45 a.m.)

The Liberal Democrats leapfrogged the main opposition Labour Party in a poll of voting intention published late Wednesday.

The party, which held its conference this week, has agreed to revoke Article 50 — blocking Brexit — if it wins the next election. While that may account for some of the rise, a higher media profile as a result of television coverage of the conferences often gives parties a boost in the polls.

The YouGov survey for the Times newspaper saw Boris Johnson’s Conservatives unchanged on 32% of the vote, the Liberal Democrats on 23% — up four points on the week before — and Labour down two points on 21%.

Coveney: ‘Growing Frustration’ in EU at U.K. (10:30 a.m.)

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney told reporters in Dublin there’s “growing frustration” within the European Union over the U.K.’s failure to bring forward concrete proposals to replace the contentious backstop, and that a “significant gap” remains between the two sides.

British ideas to replace the backstop, the fallback measure to keep the Irish border free of checks after Brexit, lack credibility so far, Coveney said.

Coveney also commented on his meeting with the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party, calling the discussions with leader Arlene Foster “positive” but stressing there was no breakthrough. Foster said late Wednesday (see Earlier) the DUP’s 10 lawmakers in the House of Commons are prepared to be “flexible” in finding a solution to the impasse over the Irish border.

‘Naive’ to Believe Johnson: Ex-PM Major Tells Court (10 a.m.)

The third and final day of Supreme Court hearings into Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament gets under way shortly, with Thursday’s highlight expected to be — in political terms — the extraordinary spectacle of a former prime minister arguing that the incumbent can’t be trusted.

Lawyers for former Conservative Prime Minister John Major will say the court shouldn’t believe Johnson’s public comments on his reasons for proroguing Parliament, even going so far as to say the court would be “naive” to do so. Johnson, who leads the same party, has long argued that he suspended Parliament to kick off a new domestic agenda, while his legal opponents say he did it to stymie the legislature ahead of Brexit.

In documents prepared for trial, Major’s lawyer, Edward Garnier, focused on the lack of a government witness statement to support its position — something the judges have also questioned.

“The court is under no obligation to approach this case on the artificially naive basis that the handful of disclosed documents, the contents of which nobody has been prepared to verify with a statement of truth, should nevertheless be assumed to be entirely accurate and complete,” he wrote.

Barclay: Both Sides Must Be Flexible (9 a.m.)

In a speech to business leaders in Spain, Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay said the U.K. wants to secure a divorce deal with the European Union, but warned that both sides must accept a degree of risk to achieve one. The backstop must be dropped from any agreement, he said, urging the European Commission to be “creative and flexible.”

“A rigid approach now at this point is no way to progress a deal and the responsibility sits with both sides to find a solution,” Barclay said, adding that he will meet the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier for talks on Friday.

Securing a Brexit deal is also “the best way” for the U.K. government to navigate the Brexit impasse in the British Parliament, Barclay said. Boris Johnson’s administration will always abide by the law, he said, referring to legislation passed in Parliament requiring the government to seek a Brexit extension if it can’t get a deal next month. But he also warned that the law “does not close the door” to a no-deal divorce.

“The U.K. wants a deal. But time is short — there are just 42 days before we leave. But it is sufficient for a deal,” Barclay said. “But any deal must acknowledge and reflect the political reality in the United Kingdom. Simply that means that the backstop has to go.”

Barclay also said the U.K. will abide by the decision of the Supreme Court, which concludes three days of hearings in London on Thursday over whether Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament for five weeks was lawful.

Foster Says DUP Ready to Help Break Impasse (Earlier)

Arlene Foster, leader of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, said its 10 lawmakers in the House of Commons are prepared to be “flexible” in finding a solution to the impasse over the Irish border.

“We are prepared to be flexible and look at Northern Ireland specific solutions achieved with the support and consent of the representatives of the people of Northern Ireland,” Foster said in a speech in Dublin on Wednesday evening.

But she told reporters it would be “madness” to erect barriers between Northern Ireland and Great Britain to achieve a deal, and said the DUP is continuing to talk with the British government about the best way forward.

Earlier:

On Brexit, the Political Will to Avert No-Deal Is Ebbing FastJudges Hem Boris Johnson in Further in Supreme Court CaseGrim Tidings from Both Sides of the Talks: Brexit BulletinBrexit to Stay BOE’s Hand as Officials Wait for Clarity: Chart

–With assistance from Dara Doyle, Thomas Penny, Franz Wild, Christopher Elser, Anthony Aarons, Charles Penty and Kitty Donaldson.

To contact the reporters on this story: Jeremy Hodges in London at jhodges17@bloomberg.net;Jonathan Browning in London at jbrowning9@bloomberg.net;Dara Doyle in Dublin at ddoyle1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Stuart Biggs

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