The British government has triggered its contingency preparations for a potential Oct. 31 no-deal exit from the EU amid reports that the bloc is poised to grant the U.K.'s request to extend its departure to early next year.
Michael Gove, the British lawmaker responsible for leading preparations for a no-deal Brexit, told Sky News on Oct. 20 that the government was triggering so-called Operation Yellowhammer with less than two weeks to go before the U.K.'s current scheduled departure from the EU. Operation Yellowhammer aims to ensure a sufficient supply of food and fuel in the U.K., as well as a stable banking system, in case the country crashes out of the EU without a deal.
"The risk of leaving without a deal has actually increased because we cannot guarantee that the European Council will grant an extension," Gove said.
Gove's statement comes on the same day that The Sunday Times reported, citing diplomatic sources, that the EU is ready to grant the U.K. a three-month technical extension to its departure if a withdrawal deal is not finalized this week. The "fungible" extension would allow the U.K. to leave the bloc on the 1st or 15th of the next three months through January 2020 if a Brexit deal is ratified before February next year.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson sent a letter to the EU requesting an extension to the Oct. 31 Brexit deadline after lawmakers voted to delay implementation of his deal with Brussels until after the necessary legislation had passed. Johnson plans to push on with plans to get the deal through parliament this week, with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab saying the government "has the numbers" to get the deal over the line and insisting that the U.K. will still leave the EU by the end of the month.
European Council President Donald Tusk said he would begin consultations with EU leaders on how to respond to Johnson's letter. The bloc will review the chances of the U.K. parliament approving the withdrawal treaty this week and will not take a decision on a Brexit extension until Oct. 22, the Times said.
Germany and other EU member states favoring a long Brexit extension are likely to push for a delayed departure up until June 2020 if Johnson struggles to get his Brexit deal through Parliament or if British lawmakers force a second referendum on the country's membership, according to the report.