On Saturday, the U.K. Parliament was set for a historic vote on the new Brexit deal but the vote has been delayed. Here is your brief rundown.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been working frantically to get a new withdrawal agreement hashed out and ready for the European Union’s approval by October 17 when he was set for a two day summit in Brussels where the potential deal could be presented.
On Thursday, PM Johnson managed to do just that, just in time for the summit. It was regarded as a great victory for the Prime Minister, who has not had an easy time since entering office less than three months ago. The new Withdrawal Agreement was accepted by the EU.
However, Johnson’s jubilation was short lived once other members of Parliament began to speak out to the British and international media. Many of whom were not happy with the deal and whom stated they would not be voting for it. The Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), who had made a coalition with the Conservatives after the 2017 snap general election, also stated they would not be voting for Johnson’s deal “as things stand”. The DUP, although small, hold considerable sway over many Conservative MPs.
In the meantime, President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker spoke out about his happiness that a deal had been agreed upon, and also his sadness that the United Kingdom would be leaving the European Union. On the subject of a possible Article 50 extension in the event of Johnson’s deal being rejected by Parliament, Juncker said that “there is no need for prolongation”. It has been widely reported that Juncker actually does not possess the power to personally reject an extension, that lies with the other 27 member states of the European Union.
As the Prime Minister returned to the U.K. after the EU summit, he knew he would have a tough fight on his hands.
On Saturday, Parliament sat for the first time on a Saturday since 1982, to discuss Johnson’s new EU Withdrawal Agreement. The debate was initially set to last 90 minutes but was later unrestricted on time.
After many hours of deliberation, MPs voted in favour of an amendment, tabled by Independent MP Sir Oliver Letwin, withholding approval of Johnson’s new EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill until legislation to implement it is in place. This is to prevent the possibility of a no-deal Brexit still occurring if said legislation is not in place by October 31. The Government lost the vote by 322 to 306. A narrow victory for the amendment.
Under the terms of the ‘Benn Act’, Boris Johnson must seek a three month extension of Article 50 from the EU by 23:00 BST on Saturday. The EU could still reject this.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that he “will not negotiate a delay with the EU”, although he has also stated that he will comply with the law.
On Saturday, a Downing Street source told the BBC that PM Johnson will send a letter to the EU requesting an extension, a letter which the Prime Minister will not personally sign, complying with the new law. However, he will also send a second, this time signed, letter stating that “there should be no delays” and that the EU27 “should reject Parliament’s letter asking for a delay”.
In fact, this is exactly what the United Kingdom Prime Minister did do on Saturday night. European Union Council President Donald Tusk confirmed on Twitter that he had received the unsigned request letter and would now consult the EU27 “on how to react”.
Earlier, PM Johnson called the European leaders to make clear that the extension request letter “is Parliament’s letter, not my letter”.
Until the EU make their decision regarding yet another Article 50 extension, and Parliament has a meaningful vote on Johnson’s new EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill, Brexit still remains as volatile and as uncertain as ever.