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.
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