EU courts ready for Halloween Brexit even if British PM Boris Johnson isn't

An hybrid flag depicting the European Union and the British flags is seen during a debate on the last EU summit and Brexit at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, on Oct 22, 2019.
An hybrid flag depicting the European Union and the British flags is seen during a debate on the last EU summit and Brexit at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, on Oct 22, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS

LUXEMBOURG (BLOOMBERG) - It seems European Union judges were the only ones who took Prime Minister Boris Johnson seriously when he said he would rather be "dead in a ditch" than ask for a Brexit extension.

Even as Britain's departure now looks set to drag on well beyond Oct 31, the EU's top courts will take the unusual step of working on Halloween - handing down rulings and opinions in about half a dozen cases, with at least four having links to the United Kingdom.

The institution, much maligned by Leave supporters, "constantly monitors developments concerning the Brexit process and will take all necessary measures to guarantee a proper treatment of all cases that are likely to be affected", said Juan-Carlos Gonzalez, head of the court's press service in Luxembourg.

Normally a holiday, Oct 31 was bolted on to the EU court's public agenda earlier this week. Since then, six cases have been added, one of which concerns a challenge by EU regulators against Britain over aluminium imports.

Three others - while not affecting the United Kingdom specifically - will be handled by Eleanor Sharpston, the British advocate general at the top EU court, whose job was plunged into doubt by the 2016 Brexit referendum.

Despite the frenetic preparations, some cases will not be ready in time for Halloween. These include London's appeal of an order by EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager to claw back millions of pounds of allegedly illegal tax breaks from multinationals.

In the meantime, the clearing of the decks will give remaining judges more time to ponder what Johnson's Brexit deal would mean - if it is ever backed by the British Parliament.