Brexit in ‘purgatory’ as parliament takes the heat

British papers struggle to make sense of Boris Johnson’s latest setback

With the complexity of a Brexit delayed but not denied to cover, Wednesday's British papers worked hard to make sense of UK prime minister's Boris Johnson's latest setback, with parliament bearing the brunt of the criticism.

Daily Telegraph

The Daily Telegraph leads with “Brexit is in purgatory” after MPs thwarted Johnson’s “do or die” pledge to leave the EU at the end of October. Later versions of the story say the PM has “put Britain on a general election footing” after the latest setback, in which MPs refused to allow him to rush through the legislation without proper scrutiny. The Matt cartoon riffs off the Guy Fawkes gunpowder plot.


The Guardian says MPs blocked Johnson’s timetable for a deal even after he threatened to pull the bill and call for a general election. Johnson will now press EU leaders to avoid a lengthy delay, it says. If you can pull yourself away from the image of Wolf for the “Gladiators: 20 years on” feature, the headline is “Parliament puts brakes on Johnson’s race for Brexit.”


The Sun deploys Little Britain’s Vicky Pollard to interpret the two votes on the deal and the timetable, going with the headline: “Yeah but no but …” Nine former Tories voted against the proposed three-day schedule, it says.



The Mirror refers to the PM’s Halloween deadline for a straightforward headline: “PM’s Brexit horror”, and says in its intro he doesn’t stand a “ghost of a chance” of leaving the EU on his timetable. It too mentions high that Johnson had threatened to pull the withdrawal bill entirely but instead opted to pause it.

Daily Mail

The Daily Mail again criticises MPs for scuppering a quick deal, with the headline: “Trust this lot to turn triumph into disaster!” It claims Johnson’s win on the second reading of the bill as a “huge boost” but says the next step is now in the hands of the EU.


The Express follows a similar tack after an “evening of high farce in Westminster”, saying MPs have spoiled a historic deal with “yet more dithering”.


The i says a Halloween Brexit is in tatters, and points out that MPs have technically supported a Brexit bill for the first time. It also quotes a “No 10 source” as saying an election is the “only way to move on”.


The Times gives its splash to a potential breakthrough drug that can slow Alzheimer’s symptoms, with an arms-crossed Johnson in the picture slot. In a slightly muted treatment, it describes the PM as “frustrated” that MPs supported the “landmark” deal but thwarted his deadline.