In Depth

Brexit ‘paused’ - what happens next?

General election seems likely after MPs reject Boris Johnson's timetable

Boris Johnson’s plan to ram his Brexit deal through parliament in time for next week’s 31 October deadline was blocked by MPs last night, leaving a fresh delay in the process almost inevitable.

The prime minister “paused” his Brexit bill last night after the House of Commons rejected the plan to get it signed off in three days. Earlier, MPs had approved the Withdrawal Agreement Bill at its first Commons vote, called the second reading, by 329 votes to 299.

“For the first time in this long process, the government has shown there is a version of Brexit that Parliament might potentially pass,” says the BBC.

However, his bid to get the legislation passed by the Halloween deadline failed by 14 votes, even after he threatened to pull it and press for a general election. “Trust this lot to turn triumph into disaster,” says the Daily Mail.

What happens next?

A short delay

Some Tory MPs hope that Johnson might ask the EU to grant a shorter delay of a couple of weeks to get the rest of the legislation through.

The “30-vote majority for [Johnson’s] Brexit deal could tempt Johnson into trying to push the bill through parliament before an election, allowing him to stand as the prime minister who delivered departure”, The Guardian says.

But Downing Street is reportedly reluctant to pursue that approach, fearing that any delay could trap them in weeks and then potentially months of argument and further delay.

Delay until January, and a general election

The EU is expected to accept Johnson’s enforced request for a fresh Brexit delay. A senior EU source said European Council President Donald Tusk will recommend that member states accept an extension until 31 January.

Therefore, Johnson could follow through on his threat of a general election, which he has long sought. The BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg says Johnson appears to be “giving up on Parliament” after a senior figure told her: “We are just not going to get anything through this Parliament… we have to go to the country.”

Jeremy Corbyn and the other opposition leaders have so far resisted calls for a fresh election, arguing that Johnson might use it to engineer a no-deal Brexit. However, once an extension has been granted, Corbyn will have few excuses to resist calls for an election he too has consistently demanded.

Return of the deal

If, as opinion polls suggest he would, Johnson secured a majority at the election, he would then face less parliamentary opposition to his Withdrawal Agreement.

“One way or another, we will leave the EU with this deal,” he said after yesterday’s vote. 

–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––For a round-up of the most important stories from around the world - and a concise, refreshing and balanced take on the week’s news agenda - try The Week magazine. Get your first six issues for £6–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

Recommended

Deal or no deal: showdown Brexit talks resuming in Brussels
Brexit trade talks to resume between the European Union and the UK
In Depth

Deal or no deal: showdown Brexit talks resuming in Brussels

Will coronavirus change Boris Johnson’s leadership style?
Boris Johnson
In Depth

Will coronavirus change Boris Johnson’s leadership style?

‘Vaccine success is on the brink of transforming the lockdown debate’
Boris Johnson watching an NHS first responder getting her vaccination
Instant Opinion

‘Vaccine success is on the brink of transforming the lockdown debate’

Quiz of The Week: 9 - 15 January
A Covid-19 mass vaccination site at Etihad Tennis And Football Centre, Manchester
Quizzes and puzzles

Quiz of The Week: 9 - 15 January

Popular articles

How scientists developed a Covid-19 vaccine in record time
A nurse prepares a dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine
In Focus

How scientists developed a Covid-19 vaccine in record time

Stalin-themed kebab shop closes after one day
Tall Tales

Stalin-themed kebab shop closes after one day

Who are the richest people in the world?
Elon Musk
In Focus

Who are the richest people in the world?

Free 6 issue trial then continue to