There was a great deal of excitement among supporters of Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal on Thursday when European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker appeared to reject another delay to the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union.
Asked whether he ruled out another extension, Juncker said he saw no need for another “prolongation.”
“If we have a deal, we have a deal and there is no need for prolongation,” he said.
Juncker’s quote was sent out as a push alert by BBC News with the UK government quickly briefing journalists that the EU had categorically ruled out any further delay.
However, behind the scenes EU leaders are already preparing to agree to another extension, if Johnson fails to secure parliamentary approval for his deal in the House of Commons on Saturday.
“I do know that there will be [a Brexit extension] offered if vote goes down Saturday,” one senior EU source told Business Insider on Thursday evening.
Other senior EU figures made the point publicly.
“We will support an extension of Article 50 if that is needed to prevent a no-deal scenario,” the European Parliament’s Vice President, Pedro Silva Pereira told Sky News.
European Council President Donald Tusk agreed, telling a press conference in Brussels that “if there is a request for an extension, I will consult member states to see how they react.”
Under the terms of a law passed by members of Parliament last month, Johnson will be legally obliged to request another delay to Brexit if he fails to secure their agreement for his deal on Saturday.
This law was passed in order to prevent Britain leaving the EU without a deal on the Brexit deadline of October 31.
Both the EU and MPs know that Johnson will have to request a delay, which is partly why his deal is likely to be rejected by MPs on Saturday and why some EU leaders are already preparing for yet another delay.