Prime Minister Boris Johnson suffered a damaging defeat in the House of Commons on Tuesday evening as MPs elected to reject his plans to fast-track Brexit legislation through Parliament in just three days. The decision from Parliamentarians came just minutes after a majority of 30 MPs backed the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal and voted through the second reading of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, in which 19 Labour MPs supported. Speaking instantly after the votes, the Prime Minister accepted he would have to “pause” his Brexit legislation and said he would speak with member states about the next route forward.
Before the votes, Mr Johnson had threatened to pull his Brexit legislation and drive forward for a general election if MPs decided to vote against his proposed accelerated legislation.
Speaking after the vote, Mr Johnson said: “We face further uncertainty. The EU must now make up their mind on how to answer this Parliamentary delay. The Government must take the only responsible course of action which is to accelerate our preparations for a no deal outcome”.
On Tuesday evening, after the votes, the President of the European Council Donald Tusk, said he “will recommend the EU27 accept the UK request for an extension”.
He wrote on Twitter: “Following PM @BorisJohnson’s decision to pause the process of ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement, and in order to avoid a no deal Brexit, I will recommend the EU27 accept the UK request for an extension. For this I will propose a written procedure.”
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Boris Johnson speaking in the Commons on Wednesday
I will recommend the EU27 accept the UK request for an extension
A letter was sent to the European Union from the Prime Minister on Saturday requesting an extension to the Brexit process in accordance with the so-called Benn Act, aimed at preventing a no deal exit.
EU ambassadors are expected to meet before the end of the week in order to discuss the next steps. “The European Commission takes note of tonight’s result and expects the UK Government to inform us about the next steps,” a spokeswoman said.
“Donald Tusk is consulting leaders on the UK’s request for an extension until January 31, 2020.”
It is unclear how long an extension the UK will be granted by the European Union, if offered.
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On Wednesday morning, Emma Vardy, Ireland Correspondent for BBC News, claimed the Irish Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar has “spoken with the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk and confirmed his support for the UK to have a Brexit extension to January 31st 2020”.
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland earlier said there was no guarantee the EU would grant a short extension to pass the Prime Minister’s Brexit Bill.
Mr Buckland also told Radio 4: “I think the Europeans are looking to us for progress. They saw last night the first time a vote was passed. They are going to be asking ‘what is the purpose for a delay’. The only purpose I can see is for the I’s to be dotted and the T’s to be crossed.
“But, I still believe we could have sorted this out. I think therefore we are left with the option of a general election.”
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David Lidington, who served as Theresa May’s de-facto deputy, said Boris Johnson should put the timetable for his Withdrawal Agreement Bill back to the Commons a second time before pushing for a general election.
“My gut instinct is to give it another go because I think even if you end up with an election then tactically to be seen to have really pressed the Labour Party to say, ‘Well, if two days is not enough then how many days actually would be sufficient for you?”‘ he told the BBC.
But, he predicted, should that fail, that a general election could happen as soon as November.
Shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon, after being asked if he supported holding a public vote before an election, said a second referendum was only achievable by electing Labour into office with a majority.
How MPs voted in the crucial Brexit votes on Tuesday evening
The shadow cabinet minister told the BBC: “I think that is fantasy politics to be fair because a public vote cannot occur under the current arithmetic of Parliament. Boris Johnson is not going to preside for nine months over the preparations for a public vote, as far as I can see.
“For those who want a public vote, the way to do it is to get a general election and a Labour government with a majority that will hold that vote.”
A senior Liberal Democrat source said Jo Swinson’s party was “not scared” of a general election.
They said: “Our priority remains getting a People’s Vote, but we are not scared of a general election.
“Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn are Brexiteers, and we can’t wait to take them on and show the country that we can stop Brexit and build a brighter future.”
It is unclear what type of extension the EU will offer the UK
Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage has predicted the European Union will grant a Brexit delay of “at least” three months and said a general election was now the “only possible route to get some resolution”.
Asked what length of an extension he thought the EU would offer, the Brexit Party leader told the BBC: “Obviously what they want is a general election or a second referendum – they want some degree of resolution.
“So I would have thought at least until the end of January, perhaps even longer.”
Asked about an electoral pact, he said: “I would work with anybody that wanted to honour the result of the referendum for us to leave the European Union and to leave its institutions and to be an independent country, but right at the moment that looks very unlikely.”