PM Boris Johnson suffered a humiliating challenge to his personal authority and his Brexit Bill as MPs today refused to rubber stamp the Brexit deal he secured in Brussels.
The rebuff came as hundreds of thousands of people marched in London to assemble outside the Palace of Westminster to demand their own say on Johnson’s Brexit deal in a so-called ‘confirmatory vote’.
Under the Benn Act he is now required by law to send a letter to the EU requesting an extention to prevent the UK crashing out without a deal on 31 October.
But he obfuscated matters when he told MPs he had no intention of seeking any such extension.
Instead of giving Johnson their backing in a “meaningful vote”, MPs passed an amendment tabled by a cross-party group of MPs led by 322 votes to 306 – a majority of 16. DUP MPs said they could not give the deal their consent despite the support of it by their ERG Brexiteer patrons.
Speaker John Bercow expressed concern at the ambiguity shown by the government, Leader of the House Jacob Rees Mogg said there would be an Emergency Statement on Monday.
Mr Johnson earlier told MPs he was not “daunted or dismayed” by the defeat, and will press ahead with tabling legislation next week.
“I will not negotiate a delay with the EU, and neither does the law compel me to do so,” he said.
“Let us go for a deal that can heal this country and allow us all to express our legitimate desires for the deepest possible friendship and partnership with our neighbours. A deal that allows us to create a new shared destiny with them,” he continued.
“Let us come together as democrats behind this deal, the one proposition that fulfils the verdict of the majority but which also allows us to bring together the two halves of our hearts, to bring together the two halves of our nation,” he said.
Johnson may actually be relying on EU leaders – like French President Emmanuel Macron – to take the initiative and ignore his letter and deny an extension although Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel said this week if MPs reject Johnson a delay is inevitable.
The Prime Minister appeared, in his words, to appeal to EU leaders not to grant an extension.
“I must tell the house in all candour that there is very little appetite among our friends in the EU for this business to be protracted by one extra day,” said Johnson.
He added: “Whatever letters they may seek to force the government to write, it cannot change my judgment that further delay is pointless, expensive and deeply corrosive of public trust.”
Leader of the Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, said: “The prime minister must now comply with the law. He can no longer use the threat of a no-deal crash-out to blackmail MPs to support his sell-out deal.”
The DUP’s leader in Westminster Sammy Wilson MP said Johnson’s deal cuts off Northern Ireland from the country “to which we belong”.
“We will not give in to this agreement which we believe does damage to our part of the United Kingdom and which will lead to the focus of attention away from London, towards Dublin because don’t forget we will be tied into an arrangement where the laws for Northern Ireland are made in Brussels, the British government will have no input, the Stormont government will have no interest … so we move towards a united Ireland.”
After the amendment was passed he said it now gave everybody time to more closely examine the proposed deal and its implications for the Union.