How can Boris Johnson ‘get Brexit done’ by October 31?

Cabinet minister Michael Gove has vowed the UK will leave the EU by Halloween but is it possible and how could his happen?

Press Association
Last updated: 20 October 2019 - 2.20pm

Cabinet minister Michael Gove has vowed the UK will still leave the EU by Halloween, despite the Prime Minister failing to secure backing in the Commons for his Brexit deal on ‘Super Saturday’.

Here we look at how Boris Johnson can still ‘get Brexit done’ by October 31.

Why did a “meaningful vote” on Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal not go ahead on Saturday?

MPs voted by a majority of 16 to back an amendment put forward by former Cabinet minister Sir Oliver Letwin to withhold approval of the latest deal agreed between Mr Johnson and Brussels “unless and until implementing legislation is passed”.

House of Commons vote – Letwin amendment
(PA Graphics)

Sir Oliver, 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.

After he lost the vote, the Prime Minister decided not to have the so-called “meaningful vote” on his deal.

When will Mr Johnson next try to get his Brexit deal through Parliament?

The Government is set to bring the Withdrawal Agreement Bill – the legislation needed for Brexit – to the Commons this coming week.

However, time is running out before the October 31 deadline because the European Parliament would also need to ratify it. Ministers could try to hold additional sittings to get the legislation through.

Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg said the Government wants to hold another meaningful vote on Mr Johnson’s deal on Monday and would make an emergency business statement to achieve this.

Commons Speaker John Bercow said he would consider whether to allow the Government’s plans.

Does Mr Johnson have the numbers to achieve a Commons majority for his Brexit deal?

In the current hung Parliament, much will hinge on the PM securing support from Brexiteer Tories who voted down Theresa May’s deal on three occasions, plus the 21 former Conservatives who lost the whip over the issue of a no deal Brexit.

Former Tory cabinet minister Amber Rudd has indicated she would support Mr Johnson’s deal and thought there was a “coalition for getting the Prime Minister’s deal through”.

However, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said he believes the Government does have enough backing, telling The Andrew Marr Show: ““We seem to have the numbers in the House of Commons”.

The DUP is strongly opposed to Mr Johnson’s deal due to the arrangements for Northern Ireland, so the backing of enough Labour MPs in Leave supporting seats will also be vital.

Forecasts suggest the numbers are on a knife edge.

How would any future ‘meaningful vote’ on the PM’s Brexit deal work?

Opposition MPs are likely to put forward amendments to any Government motion to approve Mr Johnson’s Brexit deal and Mr Bercow has suggested “manuscript” amendments submitted on the day itself could be accepted.

Opposition MPs have indicated they would seek to amend the deal to try to “shape” Brexit.

Brexit
Anti-Brexit protesters in Parliament Square (PA)

This is likely to include trying to hold a second EU referendum, securing a future customs union or inserting safeguards on workers’ rights and environmental protections.

Losing another meaningful vote on the deal could lead to the PM facing an Opposition motion of no confidence, paving the way for a general election and further clouding the precise future of the Brexit process.

Hasn’t the Prime Minister sent a letter to Brussels seeking a Brexit delay?

Under the terms of the so-called Benn Act, which was passed against the PM’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 earlier that day: “I will not negotiate a delay with the EU, and neither does the law compel me to do so.”

But the Prime Minister did eventually 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 British Government did not actually want an extension.

There was also an explanatory letter from Sir 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.

Will the EU agree to an extension?

Despite European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker raising doubts over the likelihood of another Brexit delay, that decision needs to be taken by all 27 remaining EU states.

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 the PM’s letter until it sees if Mr Johnson can get the Withdrawal Agreement Bill through Parliament this coming week.

If the PM gets the Bill through, there could be a special gathering of EU leaders on October 28.

If the deal needs more time at that stage to get through Parliament, leaders could agree to a short “technical” extension.

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