Live coverage: Blow for Johnson as MPs reject Brexit Bill timetable plan
Boris Johnson said the Government will ‘pause’ the Withdrawal Agreement Bill until the EU reaches a decision on a Brexit extension.
Boris Johnson’s “do or die” pledge to deliver Brexit on October 31 was dealt a hammer blow as MPs voted to reject his plan to force it through the Commons in just three days.
The House voted by 322 to 308 against the programme motion which would have required the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) to clear all its Commons stages by the end of Thursday.
Just minutes earlier MPs had voted by 329 votes to 299, majority 30, to approve the Bill in principle – the first time the Commons has been prepared to back any Brexit deal put before it.
Here’s the latest from Westminster:
Speaker John Bercow said the Withdrawal Agreement Bill is now “in limbo”.
He told MPs: “Just in case there is any doubt, the technical term for the status of the Bill at present is that the Bill is in Limbo.”
Quoting Erskine May, a guide to parliamentary practice, he said: “Any motion to enable the Bill to proceed to committee stage or beyond requires notice.”
Downing Street said Boris Johnson continues to believe the UK should leave the EU on October 31 and that an extension beyond this month would be “corrosive”.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Where we are now as a result of the actions of Parliament is that the EU will have to consider the request from Parliament that was conveyed to it at the weekend.”
Number 10 could not say how long it would take for the EU to respond.
The DUP’s deputy leader Nigel Dodds said: “It is perfectly proper and right and the House has made a very wise decision to allow further time for detailed examination of some of the most important legislation that we will ever have to consider, particularly given the impact on Northern Ireland.
“And at this stage I would say to the Prime Minister, as he reflects on the votes on Saturday and he studies the votes tonight, that he would sit down and talk to us again about what can be done, even at this late stage, to ensure that we join in this great quest to get Brexit done, but as one United Kingdom.”
Leader of the Liberal Democrats Jo Swinson said: “Twice in the last three days the Prime Minister has failed to force his bad Brexit deal through this House without adequate scrutiny.”
She continued: “Is it not time to end the brinkmanship and replace it with some statesmanship, to seriously and respectfully engage with our European friends to secure and extension to Article 50 to enable this House to pass legislation for a people’s vote?
“Or, if he prefers, to have proper scrutiny of his Bill, or indeed it may well be for a general election.
“All of those things require a decent extension to Article 50, he should be a statesman and go and secure it.”
The SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford said: “The facts of the matter are this is yet another humiliating defeat for the Prime Minister this evening who has sought to railroad through this House legislation that requires proper scrutiny.”
He added: “Furthermore, it is absolutely clear what must now happen, because there is legislation passed by this House, it is the law of the land. On the basis of not agreeing a deal, that the Prime Minister is instructed, instructed Prime Minister to seek an extension.”
Father of the House Ken Clarke said: “Can I ask the Prime Minister and everybody else to reconsider the suggestion he made that we pause the progress of the Bill tomorrow?”
He added: “I can’t quite see the logic of pausing progress on the Bill when the whole House is expecting the next two days to be spent on it.
“It would enable us to see how quickly the House is actually proceeding, what sort of time is being looked for, it may enable then, if people start filibustering, which I hope they won’t, for the Government to get a majority for a timetable motion if it came back which was a modest adjustment to the one he had, because I think three or four days more would certainly do it.”
The division list showed 19 Labour MPs voted for the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill at second reading.
They were joined by 285 Conservatives and 25 Independents.
The list added 217 Labour MPs voted against along with 35 SNP, 19 Lib Dems, 10 DUP, four Plaid Cymru, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, five Independent Group for Change, and eight Independents.
Mr Johnson added: “And I pay particular tribute to those members of the House who were sceptical and who had difficulties and doubts and who decided to place the national interest ahead of any other consideration.
“I must express my disappointment that the House has again voted for delay, rather than a timetable that would have guaranteed that the UK would be in a position to leave the EU on October 31 with a deal.
“And we now face further uncertainty and the EU must make up their minds over how to answer Parliament’s request for a delay and the first consequence Mr Speaker is that the Government must take the only responsible course and accelerate our preparations for a no-deal outcome.”
The Prime Minister said: “Can I say in response how welcome it is, even joyful that for the first time in this long saga, this House has actually accepted its responsibilities together. Come together and embraced a deal.
“I congratulate honourable members across the House on the scale of our collective achievement because just a few weeks ago hardly anybody believed that we could reopen the Withdrawal Agreement, let alone abolish the backstop, that is indeed what they were saying.
“And certainly nobody thought we could secure the approval of the House for a new deal and we should not overlook the significance of this moment.”
Boris Johnson said the Government will “pause” the Withdrawal Agreement Bill until the EU reaches a decision on a Brexit extension.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “On Saturday this House emphatically rejected the Prime Minister’s deal.”
He added: “Tonight the House has refused to be bounced into debating a hugely significant piece of legislation in just two days with barely any notice and analysis of the economic impact of this Bill.
“The Prime Minister is the author of his own misfortune. So I make this offer to him tonight.
“Work with us, all of us to agree a reasonable timetable, and I suspect this House will vote to debate, scrutinise and, I hope, commend the detail of this Bill. That would be the sensible way forward, and that is the offer I make on behalf of the opposition tonight.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has offered to work with the Government to agree a “reasonable timetable” for the Withdrawal Agreement Bill.
MPs have defeated the Government’s bid to fast-track the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill through the Commons by 322 votes to 308, majority 14.
European Research Group chairman Steve Baker, who backs the PM’s deal, tweeted: “It feels like there will be a candidate selection in Runnymede shortly.”
The message appeared to be a reference to former chancellor Philip Hammond.
MPs are now voting on a programme motion to enable the Withdrawal Agreement Bill to clear all its Commons stages by the end of Thursday.
The European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill has cleared its first Commons hurdle after MPs approved giving it a second reading by 329 votes to 299, majority 30.
MPs are now voting on the second reading of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill.
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said he would bring forward an amendment to the Bill to ensure that MPs can vote on any extension to the transition period.
He told MPs: “This issue has been concerning members right across the House. What is to happen if there is to be potential with regard to an extension of the implementation period?
“We believe that we can negotiate in the time that we have now, but we accept… that Parliament has a legitimate role to play.
“I can bring forward an amendment to that effect that would allow Parliament to have its say on the merits of an extension of the implementation period.
“And the Government will abide by that.”
Labour MP Liz Kendall, of Leicester West, told the Commons Leave voters would feel betrayed if the Bill does not deliver Brexit.
She said: “The Government has never, ever been honest with the British people about the inevitable choice Brexit brings.
“And they are at it again with this Bill, promising the ERG of course we’ll break free from all this nasty EU regulation and red tape. At the same time promising Labour MPs of course, we have no intention of slashing workers’ rights and environmental standards.
“Both cannot be true. If we want frictionless trade, we’ll have to sign up to EU rules but give up our say over how those rules are decided. In which case, what is the point of Brexit?
“And if we want to break free from these rules, the EU will not give us frictionless trade, in which case, what is the price of Brexit and, crucially, who will pay?”
Tory MP Sir Roger Gale, of North Thanet, raised concerns about the “plight” of UK citizens living in the EU, their pension rights and healthcare.
He said he had received “harrowing” emails from individuals around Europe expressing their fears about what they might face.
Reading the Bill he said: “Scour as I could, I found not one word of comfort for UK citizens living abroad in Europe.”
Sir Roger revealed he had spoken this afternoon with the Prime Minister, adding: “I’m pleased to say that he has taken this on board immediately and courteously and I am assured that the rights and the concerns of UK citizens will be taken into account and that a confirmatory letter to that effect will be with me in the next couple of days.”
Labour’s chief whip Nicholas Brown offered an olive branch to Boris Johnson by telling him he was “available at any point to seek a consensus with you on a programme motion that would command the support of all sides of the House”.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, he added: “No parliamentarian seeking to properly scrutinise and improve such a vital piece of legislation could agree to support the Government’s proposed programme motion.”
Justine Greening, another former Conservative minister sitting as an Independent, expressed “deep concerns” over the Bill before saying: “It’s entirely unacceptable to ram this through in two days.
“It simply stores up problems for our United Kingdom in the future doing it in this way.”
Former Conservative minister Rory Stewart, now sitting as an Independent, said: “My big beg for this House is let’s please in these very, very final stages do it properly.”
Mr Stewart, who voted Remain at the 2016 referendum and backed Theresa May’s deal, noted: “I literally have nothing to gain from backing this Brexit – I am backing it for one reason only, which is people voted for it and I promised to respect the result of that vote.”
He said the Bill was a “hell of a big document” and two-and-a-half days was not enough time to scrutinise it.
Sammy Wilson, the DUP’s spokesman on Brexit, warned the party is “in a position where we cannot support this Bill”. He said he is concerned Northern Ireland will not leave on the same terms as the rest of the UK, and will become a “semi detached” part of the UK.
He said: “I nearly choked when the Prime Minister said it, when he told us, well, don’t worry about it because all of these chances which will affect Northern Ireland will be light touch.
“There’s not really a boundary down the Irish Sea, they’re just light touch regulations. Light touch regulations which require firms to make declarations when they sell goods in another part of their own country.”
Independent MP Nick Boles accused Downing Street of “bluffing” ahead of the vote.
While the DUP’s Sammy Wilson said he had lost respect for the PM.
Boris Johnson said he would call for an early general election if MPs did not support his Bill – here are some potential timings.
Watch: Boris Johnson says he will pull Brexit deal if MPs don’t back his plans
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