Angela Merkel is said to have told other EU leaders a Brexit extension would be inevitable should MPs reject Boris Johnson’s withdrawal deal.
The German Chancellor told fellow European leaders they could not pretend there would be no extension if the UK requested one, according to reports.
In private EU summit talks, Merkel, who is one of the most influential figures on the European side, said the EU had a responsibility not to push the UK out if it needed more time, according to the Guardian newspaper.
Her remarks appear to contradict European commission president Jean Claude Juncker’s comments yesterday, where he seemed to rule out a Brexit extension.
When asked what would happen if MPs voted down the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal, he told reporters: “Anyway there will be no prolongation.”
The outgoing commission president said: “If we have a deal, we have a deal and there is no need for prolongation.”
Sterling was steady against the dollar as Johnson works to drum up support for his deal before the crunch vote in Parliament tomorrow. He needs 320 MPs to vote for his plan to be sure of a majority.
However, the result appears to be on a knife edge. The DUP, which props up the Tory government, has said it does not support the deal, and the three main opposition parties have pledged to vote it down.
Saturday’s vote will be “pretty close” but likely just fall short of approval, said John McDonnell, Labour’s shadow chancellor.
“I don’t believe it will pass, I think it will be defeated but… the numbers are going to be pretty close,” he told Sky News.
“We’ve got a great new deal that takes back control — now parliament should get Brexit done on Saturday,” Johnson said ahead of the first Saturday sitting of parliament since 1982, when Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands.
Johnson’s spokeswoman told Sky News this morning a Cabinet meeting will be held at 4pm today ahead of tomorrow’s vote.
If he wins, Johnson will go down in history as the leader who delivered Brexit – something he staked his leadership bid on over the summer.
If he fails, Johnson will either face the humiliation of another delay, or Britain crashing out of the bloc without a deal on 31 October.
Barclays chief executive Jes Staley told City A.M. that Johnson striking a deal with the EU was “a very welcome development after a prolonged period of uncertainty”.
He added: “We’ve seen a very positive reaction reflecting confidence in sterling and UK stocks, which indicates how much uncertainty has acted as a brake on growth.
“There are ratification hurdles remaining but further certainty, at this stage, would be very welcome.”