The UK government is eyeing early September as the next big Brexit showdown, with the EU expected to bide its time until British politicians have thrashed it out.
The parliamentary battle is expected to take place on 9 September – a week after MPs return from their summer break, a senior government source said.
MPs are expected to use a debate about an amendment to the Northern Ireland Act as an opportunity to seize control, likely to be a confidence vote in Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Rebels hope to create a government of national unity through which to seek an extension to Article 50 and block Johnson’s plan to get the UK out of the EU by 31 October “do or die” – possibly without a deal in place.
A General Election could be triggered during this process, however it is widely thought Johnson’s team would press ahead, ensuring a no-deal Brexit by default.
Downing Street believes the EU will back away from any offer to reopen talks until after September’s clash, to see where the chips fall. Despite Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar inviting Johnson to Dublin for talks, it is thought unlikely that this will happen before the G7 summit in Biarritz, France at the end of this month.
So far the EU has insisted the Withdrawal Agreement cannot be reopened, but the UK government has been equally insistent that it must, having failed to pass a vote in the Commons three times.
In particular, Downing Street is seeking for the Irish backstop to be reconsidered, with Johnson blasting it as “anti-democratic”.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said Johnson “believes a deal is in the UK’s and the EU’s best interests and he has said he will be energetic in pursuit of a deal.
“We very much want a deal but we’re also clear about what needs to be achieved in order to secure that.”
He added: “There are daily meetings taking place to ensure that we are ready and there are bi-weekly strategy meetings taking place in relation to the negotiations if the EU is willing to sit down and negotiate.”
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