By Joe Harker
Boris Johnson has made it clear he doesn't want to get an extension to Article 50, having promised to deliver Brexit "do or die" by the October 31 deadline.
One of the final laws passed before his five week prorogation of parliament forced him to ask the EU for a extension if he hasn't got a deal by October 19 or has parliament's approval for a no deal Brexit.
Having suggested he might ignore the law, can Johnson reject an extension offered by the EU that he nominally asked for?
Johnson's official spokesman has said the prime minister will comply with the law but has no intention of extending Article 50, saying the UK will be leaving the EU on the deadline "whatever the outcome".
He has told European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker that he will reject any extension the EU offers, despite being required by law to ask them for one if he doesn't have a deal agreed in time.
The prime minister may very well end up in a situation where he has to ask for an extension as the deadline for securing a deal is little over a month away and the UK has still not come up with a solution to replace the backstop.
Talks between Johnson and Juncker were described as "constructive" by Downing Street but the EU said no proposals had been put forward to replace the backstop with something else.
Time is ticking away and the chances of Johnson getting a deal that can get the approval of the EU and parliament are slim. The prime minister could end up in a position where he has to ask for an extension.
The Counter Claim:
The natural way to avoid asking for an extension and being put in the position of potentially rejecting what the EU offers is to get a Brexit deal done.
Johnson's government had been criticised by former cabinet minister Amber Rudd for directing most of its energies towards preparing for a no deal Brexit but they now insist a deal is their biggest priority.
Home secretary Priti Patel said the "entire machinery of government" was focused on getting a deal in order to avoid having to ask for any sort of extension in the first place.
However, they've hit the same old problems as they always have, offering nothing concrete and trusting assurances will smooth over areas that really need to be addressed by detail.
Throughout the Brexit process the UK has been light on details of a deal, often trusting vague promises or ambiguous wording to get through. The EU has been having none of it and despite the government's claims they are working on a deal they are yet to propose anything tangible or workable.
The bill that forces the prime minister to ask for an extension if a deal has not been secured by October 19 or parliament hasn't approved a no deal Brexit also explicitly states the prime minister is compelled to tell the EU the UK agrees to the extension.
If the date the Brexit deadline is extended to isn't January 31 then the prime minister has the option of asking the House of Commons whether they approve of the proposed date.
If the bill comes into effect then Johnson is required to ask the EU for an extension and compelled to agree to what is offered in the event of a three month delay, otherwise he has to either agree to the alternative date the EU propose or put it back to the parliament that voted through the bill in the first place.
Johnson can't reject an extension offered to the UK without breaking the law, so his only ways out are to get a deal and bypass the need for an extension or resign and not be the prime minister when October 19 rolls around.