It was billed as “Super Saturday” as the UK Commons held a weekend sitting for the first time in 37 years, but things did not go the way British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had planned.
British MPs voted by a majority of 16 to back an amendment put forward by former Cabinet minister Oliver Letwin to withhold approval of the deal agreed between Mr Johnson and Brussels “unless and until implementing legislation is passed”.
Mr Letwin, who lost the Tory whip for voting against the Government on Brexit previously, said the amendment was “insurance” against the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal by mistake on the scheduled deadline of October 31.
Mr Johnson decided not to have a so-called “meaningful vote” on his deal in light of the amendment.
The UK Government is set to bring the Withdrawal Agreement Bill – the legislation needed for Brexit – to the Commons next week.
Yes, but time is running out before the October 31 deadline as the European Parliament would also need to ratify it.
Without a meaningful vote, support for the agreement has not yet been tested.
Though the British PM has attracted support from a number of prominent Brexiteer Tories, the DUP is strongly opposed to the deal.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the House of Commons, said the government wants to hold another meaningful vote on Mr Johnson’s deal on Monday.
The Commons Speaker, John Bercow, said he would consider whether to allow the government’s plans.
Welsh Labour MP Chris Bryant said, in a point of order, that it is not good practice for a Government to keep holding debates on the exact same subject.
If a vote does happen, one unnamed Scottish opposition MP has been quoted as saying next week will not be a simple case of the Government just winning a vote on their new deal.
“We’ll amend it (over and over). It’ll be totally disfigured. A different bill entirely,” the MP reportedly said.
Under the terms of the so-called Benn Act, which was passed against the British Prime Minister’s wishes, Mr Johnson was compelled to write to the EU asking for a three-month Brexit extension if he had not secured a deal by 11pm UK time on October 19.
He told the Commons: “I will not negotiate a delay with the EU, and neither does the law compel me to do so.”
But Mr Johnson did send two letters to European Council President Donald Tusk.
First, there was an unsigned photocopy of the request he was obliged to send under the Benn Act, followed by a letter explaining why the UK Government did not actually want an extension.
There was also an explanatory letter from Tim Barrow, the UK’s ambassador to the EU, which was sent to Jeppe Tranholm-Mikkelsen, the Secretary-General of the Council of the European Union.
Despite European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker raising doubts over another Brexit delay, the decision needs to be taken by all 27 remaining EU states, not him.
However, the EU could set a different length to an extension, either shorter or longer than the three-month one cited in the Benn Act.
The EU could decide not to formally respond to such a letter from the British Prime Minister until it sees if Mr Johnson can get the Withdrawal Agreement Bill through Parliament next week.
If the Mr Johnson gets the Withdrawal Agreement Bill through, there could be a special gathering of leaders on October 28.
If the deal needs more time at that stage to get through Parliament, leaders could agree to a short extension.