Gove Calls Brexit Date ‘Arbitrary’, Would Delay for ‘Better Deal’ if PM

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 01: Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Michael Gove speaks during day two of the annual Conservative Party Conference on October 1, 2018 in Birmingham, England. The 2018 Conservative Party Conference is taking place in Birmingham.  This year it is being held against …
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty

Michael Gove, who is a contender for Tory Party leadership, has said that the October 31st Brexit date is “arbitrary” and that if he were prime minister he would consider delaying the UK’s exit from the EU further if believed he could secure a “better deal”.

Speaking at a Spectator event on Wednesday, Mr Gove said while he maintains that if it “comes to a decision between no deal and no Brexit, I will choose no deal”, he said that “if we’re not 100 per cent out by midnight on 31 October — then we risk making that arbitrary deadline the determinant of what a good deal is”.

“If we’re so close to the wire with what I believe is a better deal, it would be right to take those extra few days or weeks in order to land it and to make sure that we’re out,” he said in comments reported by the BBC.

Vice chairman of the European Research Group (ERG) and staunch Brexiteer Mark Francois MP told talkRADIO on Thursday: “I haven’t decided who I will be backing but I won’t be backing Michael Gove.”

“The new PM will be a proper Brexiter, Michael Gove in my opinion is not,” he added.

Mr Francois’s comments come after the Conservative ERG published a paper saying that the next party leader, and therefore prime minister, must have an “unshakeable” pledge to leave the EU on October 31st.

The paper’s thesis is backed by senior Brexiteers including former party leader Iain Duncan Smith, former Brexit minister Steve Baker, and ERG chairman Jacob Rees-Mogg.

Mr Baker said: “The Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration have failed absolutely. They are not coming back. The next leader of the Conservative Party needs to know that and act on that basis.

“Our new Prime Minister will have three months to get this right, or that’s it — for this government, this Parliament and this party.”

A number of Tory leadership contenders have said that the UK must leave the EU on October 31st, with or without a deal, including frontrunner Boris Johnson, Esther McVey, and Dominic Raab, while Andrea Leadsom said that the UK must leave the EU on that date, and if that means without the EU-approved withdrawal treaty, then on what she termed a “managed exit”.

Some, like Jeremy Hunt, believe that they can go back to Brussels and renegotiate the treaty before the deadline; however, the EU has been clear that the withdrawal treaty will not be renegotiated, with French president Emmanuel Macron saying recently that October 31st was the “final, final deadline” for Brexit.

Facing a Remainer-dominated Parliament which could attempt to stop a World Trade Organization (WTO) exit in four months’ time, Mr Raab reportedly told the centrist One Nation group in the Tory Party that he would temporarily “prorogue” the House of Commons to ensure the UK leaves on its scheduled exit date, which has already been twice delayed.

“His point is that if Parliament won’t rule out what options they will use then why would the executive rule out options?” a source close to Mr Raab told PoliticsHome.

While Ms McVey has said that if she were to win the leadership race, she may dismiss from Cabinet any Remainers to ensure that Brexit gets through by the deadline.



Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.