EU leaders agree to 31 January Brexit extension

"Flextension" granted as government launches Operation Brock no-deal contingency plan

Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA

By Nicholas Mairs

28 Oct 2019

EU leaders have agreed to hand the UK a three-month extension to the Brexit deadline, European Council president Donald Tusk has confirmed.

Tusk said allowing the UK to stay in the European Union until 31 January 2020 would be formalised by the 27 leaders through a “written procedure”, rather than an emergency summit.

However, he said the so-called "flextension" would give Boris Johnson the option of quitting the EU earlier, if MPs ratified his Brexit agreement before the new deadline.


The prime minister was forced to ask for the extension under the terms of the Benn Act preventing a no-deal Brexit.

Tusk announced that EU member states had agreed to the extension on Twitter.

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

The confirmation of the latest Brexit delay means the PM has broken his vow to take the UK out of the EU "do or die" on 31 October.

French president Emmanuel Macron had been pushing for a two-week extension in an attempt to put pressure on MPs to pass Johnson's Brexit deal.

The move could ramp up pressure on the Labour Party to back the prime minister’s push for a 12 December general election later on Monday, in a bid to break the Brexit deadlock.

Labour has said that while opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn backs an election, he would not order his MPs to not for it until the prospect of crashing out of the EU without an agreement is “off the table”. Under the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, Johnson requires a two-thirds Commons majority, 434 MPs, to trigger a snap poll.

The extension was announced as intense preparations for a potential no-deal Brexit are underway within government departments.

Earlier this morning, the government announced that it had triggered Operation Brock, its contingency plan to manage traffic disruption in Kent in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

It said diversions and more restrictive speed limits had been put in place for lorries weighing 7.5 tonnes or more heading for Eurotunnel or the Port of Dover on the M20.

The announcement said the operation had been triggered “in response to potential delays at the ports in the coming days or weeks”, and that it would be kept under review. “It will be stood down when it is no longer needed,” the announcement said.

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