Boris Johnson faces two crucial votes Tuesday as he tries to seal Brexit before the deadline
LONDON, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 19: Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves Downing Street for the House of Commons on October 19, 2019 in London, England.
Peter Summers | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Johnson has seen his plans scuppered on two different occasions over the last few days, but now faces a vote on his Withdrawal Agreement Bill and then on whether he’s able to rush it through Parliament before the October 31 deadline. The bill would see his Brexit deal with Brussels last week turned into U.K. law.
The first vote will be on the bill that states how the U.K. will leave the European Union. Johnson is expected to win, but it would only be an approval for the bill to proceed in principle. Johnson lost a crucial vote on Saturday which now means that his deal needs to pass through the House of Commons before MPs (Members of Parliament) give their full consent. It would then pass to the upper chamber — the House of Lords — for further ratification.
“Let’s go for a deal that can heal this country and allow us to believe in ourselves once again,” Johnson said Tuesday morning on Twitter. If MPs make major changes to the deal later this week, despite agreeing to it in principle on Tuesday, the government is expected to actually pull the bill.
On Saturday, the U.K. Parliament decided not to have a clear yes or no vote on the deal that the prime minister negotiated with the EU, arguing that politicians should first approve the necessary legislation to leave the bloc. A majority of parliamentarians pushed for this in order to prevent a no-deal scenario at the end of the month as it triggered a law that meant Johnson had to request a deadline extension with the EU.
On Monday, Johnson was then turned down in his request to hold another decisive yes or no vote by the House Speaker.
The second vote will be on whether Johnson is allowed to push his legislation through the House of Commons before the end of play Thursday — a relatively short period of time due to the impending Brexit deadline. It would then proceed to the House of Lords and remain on track to pass in time and allow Johnson to keep his promise of a Brexit before the end of the month.
A rejection of this time frame would effectively mean a deadline extension is inevitable and Johnson has himself said he would stop the bill if this happens. Some lawmakers have voiced their opposition against what they believe is a rushed schedule.
“Ministers are trying to bounce MPs into signing off a Bill that could cause huge damage to our country,” Keir Starmer, from the opposition Labour party, said on Twitter Monday about what he describes as pressure from the government to approve what Johnson negotiated with the EU.
“Boris Johnson knows that the more time people have to read the small print of his deal, the more it will be exposed for the risks it represents to our economy and communities,” Starmer also said.
What about the EU?
In the meantime, the European Union is closely monitoring events in the U.K. Parliament. The other 27 EU member states want to move on with the U.K.’s departure from the bloc, but they will not ratify the Withdrawal Agreement until there’s a clear position from Westminster. The EU Parliament still needs to approve the deal despite EU leaders already doing so last week.
“The Commons is not ready. So don’t blame the (European) Parliament, maybe blame Westminster,” Guy Verhofstadt, who coordinates the European Parliament’s position on Brexit, said Monday.
The EU and the U.K. had previously negotiated a deal with former U.K. leader Theresa May in 2018, but that got rejected three times by U.K. lawmakers.
Johnson, who entered Downing Street in July, renegotiated the most controversial part of that deal — the so-called Irish backstop — with his EU counterparts last week. The European Parliament could approve that deal next week, if needed, but will not do so until Westminster approves the revised text.
Sterling dipped on Tuesday morning to 1.2955 against the dollar after breaking above $1.30 in the previous session and trading at five-and-a-half month highs.
The ‘only possible deal’
Michel Barnier, the EU’s Brexit negotiator, said Tuesday that “if Britain wants an orderly exit, which is far better than a disorderly exit, then this is the only possible agreement.”
The EU has long argued that a no-deal Brexit is the worst possible outcome for its citizens and economy, but even more so for the U.K.
Nonetheless, even if the U.K. supports Johnson’s deal, Brexit will continue to be discussed and negotiated in the coming years.
“We are going to have to negotiate beyond Brexit and the divorce settlement; maybe two, three or more years for some areas to rebuild everything that had to be unpicked,” Barnier told lawmakers in Strasbourg on Tuesday.