UK government says it can secure Commons backing for Brexit deal
Johnson to introduce legislation needed to implement withdrawal agreement
British prime minister Boris Johnson in the House of Commons on Saturday. Photograph: Jessica Taylor/UK parliament/AFP via Getty Images
Boris Johnson will try to push his Brexit deal through parliament in just over a week, despite sending a letter to the European Union requesting a three-month extension to Britain’s membership.
His government will today attempt to put the deal to a “meaningful vote” in the House of Commons but Speaker John Bercow is expected to rule the move out of order.
The prime minister will on Tuesday introduce the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill (WAB), the legislation required to implement the deal.
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab said the government believed it could win a majority for the deal, either in a meaningful vote or when the Bill is put to its second reading on Tuesday.
“We appear to have the numbers to get it through,” he told the BBC.
Q&A What happens next?
When will agreement be debated?
House of Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg said the government planned to put exit deal to vote today, but House speaker John Bercow is yet to rule if that is allowed and will report to the house today.
How long will Brexit legislation take to pass?
The first main stage of debate is expected on Tuesday. Senior minister Michael Gove said government will push to get deal through parliament by October 31st. MPs will have opportunity to bring changes to legislation.
Has the EU accepted request to delay Brexit?
EU leaders are unlikely to deny request but diplomats have said bloc would not rush to decide on request.
Mr Johnson sent a letter to European Council president Donald Tusk on Saturday requesting an extension under article 50 until January 31st. He was legally obliged to do so under the so-called Benn Act after MPs voted earlier that day by 322 to 306 for an amendment deferring approval of the deal until after its implementation legislation is passed.
The prime minister accompanied the letter required by the Benn Act with another saying he opposed any further delay to Brexit.
“While it is open to the European Council to accede to the request mandated by parliament or to offer an alternative extension period, I have made clear since becoming prime minister, and made clear to parliament again today, my view, and the government’s position, that a further extension would damage the interests of the UK and our EU partners, and the relationship between us,” he said.
Mr Tusk said he would consult with EU capitals but no response to the extension request is likely until later this week.
Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer said Labour would back an amendment to the WAB that would put Mr Johnson’s deal to a confirmatory referendum with an option to remain in the EU. The DUP, which voted for Saturday’s amendment in defiance of the government, said it was not seeking a second referendum but would exploit other opportunities to address its concerns about the deal.
‘Relatively low’ risk
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he believed it was “more likely than unlikely” that the House of Commons would pass a Brexit deal and that the risk of a no-deal Brexit now was “relatively low”.
Speaking in Dublin yesterday, Mr Varadkar said EU member states were “reasonably asking” what the purpose of another extension would be.
“Obviously the Government is disappointed that there wasn’t a vote in the House of Commons on the Brexit deal at the weekend,” he told RTÉ.
“The UK has now requested an extension and of course, an extension would be preferable to no-deal if it comes to it. However, to grant an extension we need unanimity of the 27 member states. And member states are reasonably asking: what is the purpose of this extension? Is it more time to ratify the deal, or is it for something else? And I think some clarity from Westminster on that would be very helpful.”