British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pencilled in a general election for December 12 – but it remains unclear whether he will be able to force the vote.
His offer includes more time to debate the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement in advance of the House of Commons being collapsed, meaning it could be passed in early November.
In theory the timeline opens up the possibility of an election here before Christmas also. However, a number of Government sources said they no longer believe this is on the cards.
Behind the scenes senior figures have discussed calling a snap election, but a source said: “The moment has passed. There is still too much uncertainty about what is going to happen with Brexit.
“The Taoiseach has also publicly said his preferred date is May. There were people who disagreed with him but the view is now shifting back to next year.”
EU leaders are still discussing what type of Brexit extension to grant the UK after Mr Johnson finally acknowledged that his “do or die” promise to leave on October 31 will be not be achieved.
At one point, the prime minister said he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than accept further delay.
Now he has offered to allow MPs to continue debating Brexit into November if they allow him to have an election in December.
In a letter to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn he committed more parliamentary time to approve his Brexit deal.
An election is seen by his team as the only way of breaking the deadlock over Brexit after Parliament voted in favour of his deal, but then, just minutes later, rejected his preferred timetable.
But he has twice failed before to win the votes in Parliament for an election, where he needs the support of two-thirds of its 650 MPs.
The UK Labour Party has repeatedly said it will only back an election when it is sure that he cannot lead Britain out of the EU without a deal.
“This Parliament has refused to take decisions. It cannot refuse to let the voters replace it with a new Parliament that can make decisions,” Mr Johnson wrote yesterday.
He then told the BBC: “I’m afraid it looks as though our EU friends are going to respond to Parliament’s request by having an extension, which I really don’t want at all.
“So, the way to get this done, the way to get Brexit done, is, I think, to be reasonable with Parliament and say if they genuinely want more time to study this excellent deal they can have it but they have to agree to a general election on December 12.”
Most EU leaders are understood to be supportive of granting a Brexit extension until January 31 with the option of the UK leaving earlier if the deal is approved.
French President Emmanuel Macron is seen as the main opponent of a three-month extension.
However, one Irish source said: “The French will come around. They can’t be seen to be making demands such as an election in return for an extension.”
Meanwhile, outgoing EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has attacked the “lies Boris Johnson and others” spread during the Brexit referendum campaign and said it was “bullsh*t” that the European Commission was to blame for Britain leaving the EU.
Brexit could have destroyed the EU and split Europe forever, the outgoing president said in a farewell speech in Brussels yesterday.
Asked what the EU could learn from Brexit, Mr Juncker said: “Don’t always give the impression that the commission is responsible for the result of the referendum. It is not.
“It is nonsense. Bullsh*t as they are saying,” he added.
Mr Juncker blamed negative press coverage and “the lies Boris Johnson and others were spreading around” during the 2016 campaign.
He said that he should have intervened but did not at David Cameron’s request.
“Brexit is a shame and it is the most difficult problem we have ever had to face,” he said.
“It could have brought the house down, acted as a catalyst for others and split Europe forever, but it did not.
“Unity has prevailed,” Mr Juncker, who finishes his term next week, added.
By Kevin Doyle and Africafrique