There's a lot of brouhaha at the moment about whether or not Johnson would ask for an extension, including speculation on whether or not he will go to jail over his refusal to do so. But why is it presumed that Johnson actually has to ask for it? Couldn't the EU just go ahead and grant one, referencing the law requiring the Prime Minister to ask for one?
The relevant text of Article 50 is as follows:
- The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.
The treaties itself do not require the withdrawing nation to request an extension, and they would allow the European Council to offer an extension unilaterally. Such an extension would, of course, need to be accepted by the UK (which the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act would, in certain circumstances, require the Prime Minister to do).