What is happening with the vote on Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal?
The prime minister tried to have a meaningful yes/no vote on his Brexit deal on Saturday, but parliament passed an amendment withholding support until full legislation on the withdrawal agreement has been scrutinised. This meant he had to send a letter to the EU requesting a three-month extension to article 50.
Not to be deterred, Johnson will try again on Monday to secure parliament’s support for his Brexit deal in a yes/no meaningful vote. But there is widespread suspicion that he just wants it to pass in order to be able to withdraw his request for a Brexit delay.
There are two ways this could be thwarted. Firstly, John Bercow, the Speaker, could rule it out of order because the motion was already debated on Saturday. Secondly, MPs could stage a repeat of Saturday and amend the motion to again withhold support for it until full legislation is passed. It could be Brexit Groundhog Day.
Will the prime minister bring forward legislation this week?
Regardless of the meaningful vote, Johnson is planning to bring forward the withdrawal agreement bill this week. A vote on second reading could come as soon as Tuesday. MPs would have to say aye or no on whether to let it go through to the next stage of its journey through the House of Commons. Then comes the interesting bit: if it passes, MPs have the opportunity to debate possible amendments, likely to be on whether to add a customs union, a second referendum and to extend transitional arrangements with the EU to prevent the UK crashing out in 2020.
Are any amendments likely to pass?
It is quite possible that customs union and transition extension amendments could pass with support from the opposition, some Tory rebels and former Conservatives. The second referendum amendment looks trickier from a numbers point of view.
If opposition amendments were to pass, Johnson would have to decide whether he could live with them. Conservative hardliners would be unlikely to accept a new mandate to negotiate a customs union, but No 10 might be able to accept a parliamentary vote on whether to extend transitional arrangements in 2020. If the amendments are deemed unacceptable, the prime minister might decide to pull the bill entirely and try to proceed to a general election.
Labour could then agree to an election or try to find a way of forcing a second referendum in alliance with other parties. However, first the EU would have to grant an extension to article 50. If it rejected an extension, parliament would then face a choice of deal or no deal (or revoking article 50).
Will the UK leave the EU on 31 October, or has Brexit been delayed again?
The UK will probably only leave the EU at the end of the month if a deal has been passed through parliament or the EU rejects a request for an extension, which it will consider next week. The House of Commons and House of Lords could potentially have to sit round the clock and through the weekend in order to pass all the necessary legislation in time to get a deal done. It would only leave without a deal if the EU refused an extension and parliament refused to approve Johnson’s Brexit deal.
What about the prospects of an election?
Johnson is likely to go for an election within months regardless, given that he has no majority. If he passes a deal unamended, then he could well wait until next year. But if his deal is struggling in parliament, he could proceed to an election pretty quickly in order to try to get a mandate for leaving with the agreement he negotiated.