- Boris Johnson’s bid to force through Brexit laws in time for the UK to leave the EU on October 31, has been rejected by members of Parliament.
- MPs had earlier voted in favour of Johnson’s deal in principle but voted to reject Johnson’s accelerated timetable to pass his Brexit bill.
- The prime minister had insisted he would pull his bill altogether and push for a general election if MPs forced him to delay Brexit.
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Boris Johnson’s plan to take the UK out of the EU by October 31 has been dealt a major blow after MPs rejected his attempt to ram crucial Brexit legislation through parliament.
They voted by 322 to 308 votes against the government’s timetable in a dramatic blow to Johnson’s Brexit plan, just minutes after they had approved his deal in principle.
If passed, the motion would have forced Parliament to hold 12-hour sessions and sit at the weekend in order to secure parliamentary approval for key pieces of Brexit legislation in time for the Halloween exit date.
However, Johnson said he was disappointed by the decision to delay passage of his deal and would therefore “pause” the legislation so that the EU could decide on how to proceed.
He said that the “EU must make up their minds about Parliament’s request for delay.”
Johnson had been accused by his opponents of trying to avoid parliamentary scrutiny of his Brexit deal with the EU, by pushing legislation through the House of Commons and House of Lords without proper oversight.
The government on Monday night published the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, a key piece of legislation which contains hundreds of pages of details on the UK government’s new Brexit deal with the EU.
MPs had just hours to read the document before voting in a second reading of the Bill on Tuesday.
One former minister told Business Insider that being asked to read the document overnight was “absurd.”
MPs were on Wednesday set to begin the process of debating amendments to the bill, which have the potential to radically alter it, or wreck its prospects of passing altogether.
Among alternative plans being pushed by MPs is a bid to compel Johnson to negotiate retaining ties to EU customs rules after Brexit, as well as a push for a second referendum.
Another amendment designed to extend the 14 month transition period beyond 2020 is also gathering support among MPs.
The rejection of Johnson’s timetable means the government will have to decide whether to bring forward a new timetable or attempt to force a general election.
The prime minister had earlier on Tuesday insisted that any attempt to frustrate or delay Brexit would mean that he would pull the bill and “go forward to a general election,” adding that the Brexit process could not be allowed to continue for “months” more of delay.
Sources close to Johnson suggested that he may be willing to accept a shorter delay of a matter of weeks in order to a ratify his deal, according to multiple reports.
Donald Tusk, the European Commission president, indicated on Tuesday that the EU was prepared to grant an extension of the October Brexit deadline until next year.
Tusk told the European Parliament: “The situation is quite complex following events over the weekend in the UK and the British request for an extension of the Article 50 process.
“We should be ready for every scenario but one thing must be clear, as I said to prime minister Johnson on Saturday, a no-deal Brexit will never be our decision.”
Following Tuesday’s votes the UK government signalled it would not seek to progress the bill this week. The Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg said the Commons would instead debate the Queen’s Speech later this week.
What is in the Withdrawal Agreement Bill?
The Withdrawal Agreement Bill is designed to give legal effect to the Brexit deal negotiated by Johnson and allow Britain to legally leave the EU, while entering a 14 month transition period.
The bill is based on a previous agreement negotiated by Theresa May but with significant differences in the relationship between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.
Under the agreement Northern Ireland would remain tied to EU customs rules after Brexit.
This measure has proved hugely controversial because it will mean new checks in the Irish Sea, something that has outraged unionists in Northern Ireland.
Other aspects of the deal include provisions for the UK to pay its £39 billion “divorce bill” to the EU as well as provisions to maintain the rights of EU citizens living in the UK after Brexit.
Opponents of the bill are concerned about several other aspects of the agreement, including provisions which would allow the prime minister to take Britain out of the EU without a deal at the end of the transition period.