Boris Johnson to face Commons showdown

The PM is pushing for a vote on his Brexit deal today

Monday, October 21, 2019

The Prime Minister is set for another crucial day in the House of Commons as he pushes for a vote on his Brexit deal for the second time, after the original attempt was postponed.

Boris Johnson wanted to get his exit plan through Parliament during a special Saturday sitting over the weekend, but MPs passed an amendment that delayed its approval and forced him to seek a deadline extension from the EU.

Now the government plans to hold that “meaningful vote” on the deal today – but whether it can or not depends on Speaker John Bercow allowing it.

If the Speaker blocks the move, focus will switch to the government bringing its Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) before MPs instead, with a vote on its second reading on Tuesday.

The key difference is that the WAB can be subject to amendments by MPs, such as attaching a customs union with the EU or a second Brexit referendum to the plan.

Government ministers insist they “have the numbers” to push Mr Johnson’s original agreement through if it is voted on today.

However, if the WAB is brought to Parliament, Labour has made clear it will try to hijack the legislation with amendments.

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer indicated Labour could even back the WAB if it was put to voters in a national poll against a Remain option.

Meanwhile, after Saturday’s defeat, Mr Johnson had no option but to write to European Council president Donald Tusk, as Parliament demanded, requesting a three-month extension to the end of January.

Standing by his insistence that he would not seek a delay, the Prime Minister did not sign the letter, and sent a second communication maintaining that extension would be “deeply corrosive” for the UK and the EU.

Labour accused Mr Johnson of behaving like a “spoiled brat”.

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