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UK will leave EU by October 31 despite Commons setback, Michael Gove insists

By Shaun Connolly and Elizabeth Arnold, Press Association Political Staff

Michael Gove has insisted the UK will leave the EU by October 31 despite the Government asking Brussels for a delay.

After suffering an embarrassing defeat in the Commons over his Brexit plans on Saturday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson got a senior diplomat to send an unsigned photocopy of a letter asking for an extension.

In a second note to European Council president Donald Tusk, the PM said the delay requested would be "deeply corrosive".

Asked if he could guarantee that the UK would leave the EU by Halloween, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said: "Yes, that's our determined policy. We know that the EU want us to leave, we know that we have a deal that allows us to leave."

Mr Gove told Sky News's Sophy Ridge On Sunday: "We are going to leave by October 31st. We have the means and the ability to do so and people who - yesterday we had some people who voted for delay, voted explicitly to try to frustrate this process and to drag it out.

"I think actually the mood in the country is clear and the Prime Minister's determination is absolute and I am with him in this, we must leave by October 31st."

Mr Johnson had been legally required to send the letter and stressed to Brussels he was only sending it at Parliament's bidding.

Mr Gove claimed the parliamentary defeat had increased the risk of a no-deal Brexit and he was "triggering" Operation Yellowhammer - the Government's plan to deal with such a scenario.

He said: "The risk of leaving without a deal has actually increased because we cannot guarantee that the European Council will grant an extension.

"And that is why I will, later today, be chairing a Cabinet committee meeting, extraordinarily on a Sunday, in order to ensure that the next stage of our exit preparations and our preparedness for no-deal is accelerated.

"It means that we are triggering Operation Yellowhammer.

"It means that we are preparing to ensure that, if no extension is granted, we have done everything possible in order to prepare to leave without a deal."

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said he believed the Government could get its deal through Parliament.

With the Withdrawal Agreement Bill set to go to the Commons in the coming days, Mr Raab told BBC One's The Andrew Marr Show: "We seem to have the numbers in the House of Commons.

"A lot of people say 'Get this done and move on'."

Former Cabinet minister Amber Rudd, who quit the Tory whip, said she would back Mr Johnson's deal.

The Government could hold a so-called "meaningful vote" on the agreement on Monday if Commons Speaker John Bercow allows it.

Labour said it will push for a new EU referendum when the Government brings its Brexit plans to the Commons.

And shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer left open the possibility that the party could back Mr Johnson's deal if a new national poll was attached to it.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell accused Mr Johnson of "behaving a bit like a spoilt brat" in the way he communicated with Brussels over the extension request.

He said the PM could be in contempt of Parliament and the courts over the issue.

Asked if the EU was going to be open to an extension, its chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said Mr Tusk would consider the next stage.

He told reporters: "As foreseen, the EU ambassadors meet this morning to take the next steps of the (EU) ratification and tomorrow I will await the European Parliament."

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