Boris Johnson will attempt to rush his Brexit deal into law by the end of this week as ministers declared yesterday they believe it now has the support of a majority of MPs.
The Prime Minister is planning late-night sittings in the Commons and a special weekend session in the Lords as he attempts to pass the Withdrawal Agreement Bill.
Usually it takes weeks for pieces of legislation to go through all their stages in the Commons and the Lords but ministers are desperate to get the deal into law ahead of a planned EU summit next Monday on whether to have another Brexit delay.
In a boost for Mr Johnson’s plans, it was claimed last night that 15 Labour MPs were ready to back the deal on Saturday – enough to give the Prime Minister a Commons majority – before plans for a yes-or-no vote were postponed.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab yesterday said the Government was confident that it could now get Mr Johnson’s Brexit deal through Parliament.
Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, he said the Prime Minister had managed to negotiate ‘a deal that can pass through the House of Commons’.
The Prime Minister (pictured in the Commons on Saturday) is planning late-night sittings in the Commons and a special weekend session in the Lords as he attempts to pass the Withdrawal Agreement Bill
He added: ‘We seem to have the numbers in the House of Commons. A lot of people say ‘get this done and move on’.’
Downing Street last night said it was determined to get the Bill through so it could rescind the letter that Parliament forced the Prime Minister to send to Brussels asking for a Brexit extension.
A No 10 source said: ‘We cannot allow Parliament’s letter to lead to Parliament’s delay – we must leave on October 31 and finally get Brexit done. The best way of doing this is for MPs to vote for Boris’s new deal.’
It is expected the Withdrawal Agreement Bill will be published today and will be voted on by MPs for a first time tomorrow in its second reading.
The Commons will then be asked to approve a fast-track timetable with the aim of the Bill passing into law by Sunday night at the latest.
A Government source said: ‘The public will expect us to move at pace to get the Withdrawal Agreement passed so we can leave on October 31. There will be time for Parliament to consider the legislation and any amendments.’
Michael Gove yesterday said the Government was determined to deliver its promise to get the country out of the EU by October 31.
Gove and Hancock’s Brexit wager
Michael Gove has revealed he placed a bet with Cabinet colleague Matt Hancock on whether the UK will leave the European Union by October 31.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said the UK’s departure was ‘our determined policy’.
Asked if the Prime Minister should resign if the UK did not leave the EU by this date, he told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday: ‘We’re going to deliver by the 31st October, we are going to ensure that we get this deal done…’ Asked if he’d place money on it, he added: ‘Yes, I have.’
Pressed on how much, Mr Gove added: ‘Well that’s between me and the Health Secretary.’
The light-hearted exchange leaves open the question of whether Mr Hancock believes the Government can deliver Brexit by that date.
But an aide quickly clarified that the bet was on what the majority for the Brexit vote would be.
Asked if he could guarantee this would happen, he told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme: ‘Yes, that’s our determined policy.
‘We know that the EU want us to leave, we know that we have a deal that allows us to leave.’ Mr Gove said the Prime Minister’s letter to the EU requesting an extension would be withdrawn in the coming days if Parliament backs the Government’s Brexit deal.
He added: ‘If we vote to leave, we get the legislation through, then there is no extension – October 31 is within sight.’
He continued: ‘We now have an opportunity in the days ahead to pass the legislation necessary in order to ensure that we honour the referendum mandate and leave. I think it would be wrong for people to assume, as some do, that EU leaders want this to drag out.’
Asked if the PM should resign if the UK did not leave the EU by Halloween, he said: ‘We’re going to deliver by October 31, we are going to ensure that we get this deal done and I’m confident that… we will get this deal done.’
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell accused Mr Johnson of ‘behaving a bit like a spoilt brat’ in the way he communicated with Brussels over the extension request.
He said the Prime Minister could be in contempt of Parliament and the courts over the issue.
Asked if the EU was going to be open to an extension, its chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said that Mr Tusk would consider the next stage.
He told reporters: ‘As foreseen, the EU ambassadors meet this morning to take the next steps of the [EU] ratification and tomorrow I will await the European Parliament.’
Can Boris still get his deal through and what happens if he fails? JASON GROVES looks ahead to another seven days of Brexit drama
One of the biggest parliamentary weeks in decades could determine the fate of Brexit. Here Political Editor JASON GROVES looks at what might happen.
Can Johnson still salvage his deal?
Yes. Mr Johnson recalled Parliament to try to force MPs to make a decision on his Brexit deal. His efforts were scuppered when MPs voted instead to force him to seek another delay. But the vote did not pass judgment on his deal.
Has he broken law?
One of the biggest parliamentary weeks in decades could determine the fate of Brexit. Political Editor JASON GROVES looks at what might happen
No. On Saturday night Mr Johnson reluctantly complied with the law requiring him to send a letter to the EU asking for a three-month delay. But he did not sign it and sent two other letters making it clear he did not want another extension. Legal action against him for trying to ‘frustrate’ the law is likely. But the EU has said it considers Mr Johnson to have requested an extension, which it will now consider.
His next move?
The Prime Minister is expected to make a second attempt to hold a ‘Meaningful Vote’ tonight. Passing such a vote is required by law before Britain can leave the EU. There are fears it could be blocked by John Bercow under Commons conventions that state the same motion cannot be debated twice. Some Remainers fear if the vote passes, the PM could withdraw the letter to the EU requesting a delay. Such a move is likely to be frowned on by the courts.
Has he got enough MPs to pass the deal?
Until a vote is held it is impossible to be sure. The majority of the 28 Tory ‘Spartans’ who rejected Theresa May’s deal have come on board, but a hardcore of half a dozen have yet to declare. A significant number of Labour MPs have also backed the deal, with more expected to follow. Mr Johnson’s former allies in the DUP are implacably opposed. It will be very tight.
What if the vote fails?
Downing Street has indicated the PM will press ahead with legislation tomorrow to pass his new deal into law via the Withdrawal Agreement Bill. In theory, the Government could then repeal the need for a ‘Meaningful Vote.’ But it is high risk because if the legislation is voted down then it cannot be brought back without starting a new session of Parliament.
Can Johnson win in time for October 31?
The PM has told EU leaders that the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, which ratifies the deal, could be passed in as little as six days. But opponents will try to amend the timetable tomorrow to delay final sign off until well after October 31 in the hope this persuades the EU to grant another delay.
Could MPs force a second referendum?
Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer said it was ‘inevitable’ that Labour and others would try to force a vote this week to require the Government to call a referendum on the deal. The DUP has indicated it could now back a new referendum. But two dozen Labour MPs oppose the idea, meaning a vote would be tight. No 10 has said it will not hold a second referendum. If so, the stand-off could only be resolved in an election.
What if the PM’s deal is voted down?
The Government would focus on preparing for a No Deal Brexit on October 31. Remainers hope the EU leaders would act to prevent No Deal by offering a delay of at least three months. Mr Johnson would then push hard to force an election.
Could No Deal still happen?
Yes. Remainers hope the EU will grant a further extension lasting at least three months. But several EU leaders, including Emmanuel Macron and Leo Varadkar, are frustrated. The French President has even hinted he could veto another extension. If this happened, and MPs had rejected the PM’s deal, then the UK would leave without a deal on October 31.
Fears Bercow will step in to block a new vote today
- PM wants to hold meaningful vote after MPs wrecked plans for one on Saturday
- Bercow has warned he could block move as the deal has already been debated
- No 10 wants to hold a yes-or-no vote before moving on to the Brexit legislation
Commons Speaker John Bercow could today scupper Boris Johnson’s bid to hold a yes-or-no vote on his Brexit deal.
The Prime Minister wants to hold a so-called meaningful vote after MPs led by Sir Oliver Letwin wrecked his plans for one on Saturday.
But Mr Bercow has warned he could block the move on the basis the deal has already been debated and considered by the Commons.
Rebel MPs could also stage a repeat of Saturday and amend the motion to withhold support for the deal until the Withdrawal Agreement Bill that turns it into law has been passed.
Commons Speaker John Bercow (pictured) could today scupper Boris Johnson’s bid to hold a yes-or-no vote on his Brexit deal
Downing Street wants to hold a yes-or-no vote before moving on to the Brexit legislation so it shows Brussels whether the deal has the support of a majority of MPs.
A No10 source said last night: ‘Letwin’s delay amendment turned Saturday into a meaningless vote and denied MPs and the public the chance to end the uncertainty.
‘Parliament needs a straight up and down vote on the deal.’
Mr Bercow, who is due to stand down as Speaker at the end of this month, has come under fire for a series of controversial rulings in the chamber that were widely considered to favour Remain supporters.
He previously admitted to voting Remain in the 2016 referendum and his wife’s car bears a ‘b******* to Brexit’ sticker. The Speaker is supposed to be neutral.
Dame Eleanor Laing, who is one of Mr Bercow’s deputies and is running as one of the candidates to replace him, yesterday accused the Speaker, in an article for the Telegraph, of ‘straying’ from the rule of law over Brexit and making it look like he wanted to ‘load the dice in one particular direction’.
The Prime Minister wants to hold a so-called meaningful vote after MPs led by Sir Oliver Letwin wrecked his plans for one on Saturday. But Mr Bercow has warned he could block the move on the basis the deal has already been debated and considered by the Commons
She wrote: ‘Trust in our democracy has been badly rattled. Parliament and the country are at breaking point over Brexit, in large part due to the perception that our tried and tested constitutional traditions are being manipulated to load the dice in one particular direction.
‘The way in which we make laws must not only be fair, it must also be seen to be fair.
‘The Speaker needs to be an independent anchor of our proceedings, unaffected by an allegiance to any political objective or to any party or group within Parliament, upholding our rules and conventions and applying them consistently.’
She added that ‘the rule of law has bound this country together for centuries’ but ‘it seems as if we have strayed from these concepts recently and too many decisions have been made behind closed doors’.
Tory minister Nadine Dorries last night tweeted: ‘The Speaker has jettisoned hundreds of years of tradition a number of times, in order to facilitate rebel demands.
‘It will be a sad day [on Monday] if he chooses to abuse his power and prevent a vote on the new deal, when the public are screaming out for it.’