Boris Johnson faces Commons showdown over 'meaningful vote' on Brexit deal

21 October 2019, 08:13

Boris Johnson (left) and Speaker John Bercow
Boris Johnson (left) and Speaker John Bercow. Picture: PA

By Megan White

Boris Johnson faces a showdown against Commons Speaker John Bercow as he pushes for a meaningful vote on his Brexit deal.

The Prime Minister is pushing for a knife-edge vote on his plans for leaving the EU in a bid to keep to his promise of leaving on October 31.

Mr Bercow said he would consider whether to allow the Government's plans, but he could rule that such a vote effectively happened on Saturday and cannot be repeated so soon.

Labour has made clear it will try to hijack the legislation by putting down amendments for a second Brexit referendum and a customs union with the EU.

If a meaningful vote is held and the Prime Minister wins, it is hoped the legislation could pass quickly and Britain will leave the EU in ten days.

One million protesters took to the streets of London demanding a People's Vote
One million protesters took to the streets of London demanding a People's Vote. Picture: PA

If the Speaker blocks the move, focus will switch to the Government bringing its Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) before MPs on Monday, with a vote on its second reading on Tuesday.

Ministers insist they "have the numbers" to push the agreement through, but the parliamentary situation appears to be on a tightrope.

Despite being forced by Parliament to request a Brexit delay from Brussels after another embarrassing Commons defeat on Saturday, Mr Johnson and Ministers are talking up their chances of rushing Brexit legislation through.

It came on the same day that one million protesters took to the streets of London to demand a People's Vote on any Brexit deal.

Organisers hailed the march as "one of the greatest protests this country has ever seen."

The PM's move came amid reports that the EU was considering offering the UK a "flexible extension" to February, allowing it to leave whenever an agreement is secured.

Mr Johnson is striking a bullish stance as he faces another rollercoaster week in the Commons, insisting the UK will still quit the EU in ten days.

He abandoned plans for a meaningful vote on a Saturday sitting of the Commons after suffering an embarrassing defeat at the hands of former Tory minister Sir Oliver Letwin.

But the PM had not suffered a loss but achieved a "boost to his strategy", according to former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith.

He wrote in The Daily Telegraph: “For every time he is forced to take a defiant stand against the Remainers in Parliament, it only becomes clearer to the British public just who is fighting desperately and against the odds to deliver their wishes, and who is to blame for the fact that Brexit is not yet over.”

After losing the vote, Mr Johnson had no option but to write to European Council president Donald Tusk, as Parliament demanded, requesting a three-month extension to the end of January.

The PM did not sign the letter, and sent a second communication insisting that a delay would be "deeply corrosive" for the UK and the EU.

If Mr Johnson’s deal is amended he will have no choice but to accept a long delay to the UK's departure from the bloc.

A Government source said: "Parliament needs a straight up-and-down vote on the deal... or do they want to frustrate and cancel Brexit altogether?

"We cannot allow Parliament's letter to lead to Parliament's delay."

The source said the WAB would need more late-night and weekend sittings by MPs.