News | Published October 23 2019

No.10 calls for election as MPs reject Brexit deal timetable

MPs have voted in favour of Boris Johnson’s Brexit plan but rejected his timetable to push all relevant legislation through in three days.

The prime minister has now “paused” the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, and Downing Street indicated that the government could push for a snap general election if the EU agrees to a January Brexit delay.

19 Labour MPs, 25 Independents and the entire Conservative parliamentary party supported the prime minister's deal at second reading, giving it a comfortable majority of 30.

But MPs then went on to reject the government's programme motion - or timetable for getting all the legislation through - by a majority of 14.

MPs have argued that three days is not enough time to scrutinise the legal text of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, despite a majority supporting the deal in principle.

This could mean that Boris Johnson isn’t able to secure his repeated promise of taking the UK out of the EU by October 31.

On Saturday, MP’s passed the so-called Letwin Amendment, withholding explicit approval on Boris Johnson’s deal until all relevant legislation is passed.

Johnson was then bound by a separate piece of legislation, the Benn Act, to write to the EU requesting an extension, despite saying he’d rather be “dead in a ditch” than do so.

No 10 has now indicated that the prime minister plans to secure a snap general election in an attempt to break the impasse.

Under the Fixed-Term Parliament Act, the prime minister will need the support of two-thirds of MP’s to call an election.

The Liberal Democrats and the SNP have hinted they will support one, and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said his party would vote for an election once “no deal is off the table”.

Yesterday, the prime minister said it was still government policy for the UK to leave on October 31, but acknowledged he would have to wait for European leaders to respond.

Johnson added the government would now step up no-deal preparations, and pause the legislation until the EU had reached a decision regarding an extension.

Jeremy Corbyn said his party was prepared to work with the government to agree "a reasonable timetable" so the Commons could debate and scrutinise the Brexit legislation properly.

Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, said he would be recommending EU leaders grant an extension to January 31. 

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Authored by

Joshua Sandiford
Junior Political Editor
October 23 2019

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