Fri, 15 Nov 2019

British and European Union negotiators are locked in secret talks in Brussels, a final desperate attempt to nail down a Brexit deal before a crunch summit starting on Oct. 17.

The UK is due to leave the EU on October 31 and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he's determined to meet that deadline, even if it means the country breaks away from the EU without a deal.

Here is how the next crucial two weeks in the Brexit saga could unfold.

Oct. 14: The Queen's Speech

Johnson's government outlines its new proposed legislative programme when Queen Elizabeth II addresses Parliament in London. The proposals will be debated and voted on over the following days, and as Johnson has no majority in the House of Commons, he's at risk of losing the crucial vote on his plans. That could trigger moves to topple his government through a formal vote of no-confidence, paving the way for a general election.

In Brussels, Brexit negotiations are expected to continue in an attempt to reach agreement.

Oct. 17-18: The Summit

EU leaders will meet in Brussels. The summit will either be a chance to approve an outline deal that negotiators have pulled together, or if no agreement has been reached, to weigh up whether to extend the deadline beyond October 31. A "technical" extension may be needed for the paperwork to be completed, even if a deal is done in time.

Oct. 19: Super Saturday

Johnson plans to open Parliament for a rare Saturday sitting to allow Britain's politicians to decide what happens next. If there's an agreement with the EU he could put it to a vote for approval. It's the first time the Commons will have held debates on a weekend since the Falklands War in the early 1980s.

One option under discussion among opponents of Johnson's "do or die" Brexit strategy is to use the Saturday sitting to force through a law to hold a fresh referendum on Brexit.

If no deal has been reached with the EU, and Johnson can't persuade Parliament to approve leaving without an agreement, he has until the end of the day on October 19 to write a letter to Brussels requesting a delay to the deadline. This is a legal requirement under a law which Parliament passed last month in an attempt to stop Johnson forcing through a no-deal split.

Oct. 21: Courts, Chaos, Constitutional Crisis

This week could be chaotic. If Johnson refuses to comply with the requirement to seek a delay to Brexit, he's ready to be taken to court. This may well end up with another showdown in the Supreme Court, which ruled against the prime minister in September.

In Parliament, Johnson's opponents could seek to pass laws to enforce a delay, or cancel Brexit altogether. There may also be moves to topple his Conservative administration and replace it with a government of national unity, headed by a senior politician who is seen as acceptable to all major parties.

If a delay to Brexit is needed, EU leaders will probably want to convene an emergency summit in Brussels to decide the terms of the deadline extension, and how long it will be.

Oct. 31: Exit Day

The UK is due to leave the EU at 11 p.m. British time on October 31, unless something changes first.

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