Is Brexit on October 31 now set in stone?

Tweeted messages by the UK’s prime minister and Brexit minister today give the impression that the government has signed off a document that makes an October 31 Brexit inevitable – but has it?

According to The Daily Express, the document signed by Brexit Minister Steve Barclay is ‘a do-or-die order’ and “means Britain will now leave the EU on October 31”, however the claim has been downplayed by a legal expert.

Mr Johnson said the signing “means we will take back control of our laws on Brexit day” and Mr Barclay called it “a landmark moment in taking back control of our law”.

The Brexit Minister has effectively given a rubber stamp to a law that was passed by Parliament last year – the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, which repeals the European Communities Act 1972 which made EU law binding in the UK.

The ‘commencement order’ Mr Barclay signed is a formality to ensure the act can be legally enforced.

However the act itself refers to its provisions taking effect ‘on exit day’ – meaning that if ‘exit day’ is delayed again, as happened in March, then EU law would continue to apply to the UK until the new ‘exit day’, a professor of law at Cambridge University has clarified.

Prof Mark Elliott said on Twitter: "If parliament forces the government to seek, and the EU grants, an Article 50 extension, the definition of 'exit day' can be altered and ECA repeal deferred accordingly.

"So repeal isn't 'set in stone'."

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