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Image: picture-alliance/D. Cliff

Finnish PM expects another Brexit delay

October 6, 2019

London is likely to ask for another extension of the Brexit deadline despite its harsh stance, Finnish PM Antti Rinne said. But UK PM Boris Johnson stresses, "We will be packing our bags and walking out on October 31."


Top EU leaders are set to discuss Brexit at a summit scheduled for October 17 to 18, with the current Brexit deadline set to expire by the end of the month.

Speaking to the German weekly Welt am Sonntag, however, Finnish Prime Minister Antti Rinne said he expected the UK to ask for another deadline extension.

"It currently seems like there would not be a deal by the end of October and there is a danger of hard Brexit," he said, according to the report.

'Dead in a ditch'

Earlier this week, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson sent out a proposal to bypass the backstop between the Republic of Ireland and the UK. In the letter to EU leaders, Johnson suggested "the potential creation of an all-island regulatory zone on the island of Ireland, covering all goods." The letter provided few practical details, except to say most of the trade would be controlled "electronically" with only a "very small number of physical checks." EU leaders rejected the plan. 

Fear of Brexit in Ireland

In an op-ed published by Britain's Sun newspaper on Sunday, Johnson wrote: "The way I see it, the proposals published this week represent we in the UK jumping to the island in the middle of the river. If we're to leave with a deal, we need the EU to jump over from its side and join us there, showing its own willingness to do a deal that the UK Parliament can support."

Rinne, whose country holds the six-month rotating presidency of the bloc, told Johnson it was "important to find a solution within a week."

Previously, Johnson said he would rather be "dead in a ditch" than ask for another Brexit extension from the EU. The bloc has granted two extensions already.

Read more: Boris Johnson says he won't quit, vows to 'get Brexit done'

Big Brexit 'mess'

In the article published on Sunday, Rinne noted that Johnson still had two weeks to come up with other ideas.

Inside Europe: Calais test runs a no-deal Brexit

"But it would seem that Johnson has only now understood what a big mess this is, and he has difficulty making a proposal that would get him out," Rinne said in translated remarks.

"That is why I fear that the October summit would be more about an extension than a concrete solution for this situation." Rinne also said it was important to prevent a hard Brexit. "I would be ready to consider a negotiation extension request," Rinne added.

Time is 'tight'

On Saturday, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said he was seeking a meeting with Johnson this week and warned that time was "tight."

With the summit looming, it was "not reasonable to expect 27 or 28 heads of government to decide and sign off on something they only see the night before or two days before," Varadkar said.

Talks between the UK's top Brexit representative, David Frost, and EU negotiator Michel Barnier were halted on Friday with no progress, despite the UK's efforts to keep going throughout the weekend. The negotiators are set to meet again on Monday.

British Housing Minister Robert Jenrick, meanwhile, said speculation that London could ask another EU member state to veto a request to extend Article 50 to ensure Brexit happened on October 31 was "tittle-tattle."

"I have not heard any serious talk of that beyond the speculation that I have seen in the papers, so I think that, with all due respect, is just tittle-tattle," he said on Sky News on Sunday.

sri,dj/ng (dpa, AFP)

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