Emmanuel Macron has vowed to veto a Brexit delay if MPs fail to pass Boris Johnson’s proposed deal in a crunch vote tomorrow.
The French President today told MPs to back the deal, saying it was the result of “real leaders with real strategic thoughts”.
Addressing media after the EU summit in Brussels, Macron said he would countenance another delay to Brexit.
“I am not trying to read into the future but I do not think we shall grant any further delay,” he said. “It is a time to put an end to these negotiations and move on to the future relationship.
Only “major changes” would justify another delay, Macron said.
When asked what he thinks of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Macron called him a “real leader”. He added: “Those who do not take him seriously are wrong and will continue to be wrong.”
The pound fell 0.2 per cent against the dollar to $1.286 after his remarks.
Tory rebels have called on Johnson to request a Brexit delay even if parliament does pass his last-minute deal tomorrow.
The Conservative MPs, from whom Johnson removed the whip last month due to their opposition to the prospect of a no-deal Brexit, have indicated they will vote for the deal.
But the 21 Tory rebels want the option of a Brexit extension as a safety net.
European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker yesterday said there was no need for a Brexit delay now a deal is agreed.
That ramps up pressure on MPs to support Johnson’s deal in parliament to avoid the threat of a no-deal Brexit on 31 October.
Sir Oliver Letwin has now put forward an amendment to the government’s Brexit bill motion that would force the Prime Minister to seek an extension regardless.
That would prevent the UK falling out of the EU without a deal accidentally, if it runs out of time in negotiations.
“It’s an insurance policy against no-deal,” one MP told The Times.
The government hopes most of the rebels will back the deal as they look to return to the Tory party.
Johnson is frantically trying to win MPs’ support ahead of tomorrow’s crunch vote. The DUP has criticised the new Brexit deal, while Labour said it will vote against the motion.
Meanwhile the SNP has said it will seek to force Johnson to stand down as Prime Minister if he wins enough support.
But one prominent rebel, Winston Churchill’s grandson Sir Nicholas Soames, said: “Boris now has a moment to bring the House and the country together, I take my hat off to him.”
Others including Ed Vaizey and Greg Clark are expected to fall in line and support the deal.
If Johnson fails to secure the votes he needs then parliament’s Benn Act would force him to seek an extension.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged the EU to be open to a delay after Juncker appeared to rule one out yesterday. All 27 member states must agree to a request for a Brexit delay.
With 635 votes on offer in tomorrow’s special sitting of parliament, the government will need 318 to succeed.
If Johnson wins over all Tory MPs, the government would have 285 votes.