What happens next? Boris Johnson pauses his Withdrawal Bill after MPs wreck his three-day timetable... so can Britain still leave the EU by October 31?

  • Boris Johnson wins first vote on his Brexit deal by 329 to 299,  a majority of 30
  • But he then failed to win key vote on fast-tracking deal through the Commons 
  • PM wanted the Withdrawal Agreement Bill to clear Commons in just three days
  • But many MPs were furious at proposed timetable and torpedoed it 322 to 308 
  • PM said he will make clear to the EU that he does not want any Brexit delay 
  • Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, says he'll advise EU to delay 

brexit countdown_bgCreated with Sketch.

The fate of Brexit was plunged into uncertainty this evening after Boris Johnson secured MPs' backing for his deal only for the House of Commons to then scupper his plans to hit the October 31 divorce deadline. 

MPs voted in favour of the PM's agreement by 329 votes to 299, a majority of 30 - the first time any Brexit deal has been supported by a Commons majority. 

But the PM then lost a crunch second vote in which he asked MPs to support a plan to crash the 110-page Withdrawal Agreement Bill through the Commons in the space of just three days.  

The two key votes

The PM faced two massive showdowns in the Commons last night - one over his deal itself and another to get MPs to agree the 72-hour timetable he has set out to push it through.

Second reading: The first big vote on the Brexit legislation.

MPs were asked to approve the Bill in principle, so it can go forward for detailed scrutiny.

If the text had been rejected at this point, it was effectively dead.

But Number 10 had the numbers for approval after a mix of Labour moderates, ex-Tory rebels and the vast majority of the so-called Tory Spartans, who voted against Theresa May's deal three times, came on board.

He secured an historic win on a Brexit deal with MPs voting 329 - 299 in favour of Mr Johnson's blueprint.  

Programme motion: The government was trying to set a tight timetable so the law can be rushed through to meet Boris Johnson's 'do or die' Brexit date of October 31.

MPs were asked to approve a 72-hour timetable to push it through by next week.

But many complained that it did not give enough time to scrutinise the Bill.

MPs voted it down, torpedoing his 72-hour timetable for passing crucial legislation by 322 to 308. 

Defeat made the PM's Halloween deadline almost impossible to meet - and he now faces haggling over the timeframe of an extension with EU leaders. 

MPs voted against fast-tracking the legislation that would put the premier's deal into law and make Brexit happen by 322 votes to 308, a majority of 14, on the grounds they needed more time to scrutinise it. 

Mr Johnson responded to the two votes by welcoming the support for his deal but also by expressing his disappointment that MPs had put the Halloween deadline in peril. 

With no timetable now agreed for the passage of the so-called WAB, Mr Johnson told MPs he would pause his efforts to see if the EU offered the UK an extension. 

Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, tweeted that he would recommend the EU's 27 member states accept Britain's request for an extension. 

But Mr Johnson said he would be urging EU leaders not to grant a delay as he vowed to accelerate the government's No Deal preparations. 

Mr Johnson said he would report back to the Commons once the EU had made its position clear. 

The chaos in the Commons means the UK is now set for a tumultuous 48 hours as Downing Street and Brussels try to figure out what to do next. 

Below is an analysis of what is likely to happen next as the PM tries to keep alive his hopes of taking the UK out of the EU by October 31.   

So will we leave on October 31?

After last night, no. Brexit is going to be delayed, and Mr Johnson wants to make sure everyone knows who is to blame.

What happened last night?

With the help of pro-Leave Labour MPs, Boris Johnson won a vote on his Brexit deal at second reading by 329 votes to 299. But he then lost a second vote by 308 to 322, when MPs voted down a critical programme motion which sets the timetable for the debates and is essential to get the Bill through. The motion would have ensured Brexit happened in time for October 31.

Why did MPs vote against the motion?

Nine ex-Tory rebels joined forces with Jeremy Corbyn and opposition parties to block the fast-track passage of the Bill, complaining there wasn’t enough time set aside in the next three days to debate its provisions.

But ministers pointed out the Commons has been discussing Brexit for three years. Without a programme motion ministers believed the Bill would end up stuck in the mud.

What happens next?

It’s over to the EU. After the vote, Mr Johnson announced the Bill would be ‘paused’ while EU leaders ‘make up their minds how to answer Parliament’s request for a delay’. In the meantime, he said, No Deal preparations will be stepped up. He is expected to call EU leaders to say he doesn’t want to delay Brexit, but is being forced to by Parliament. Donald Tusk tweeted last night that he would ask EU leaders to offer another extension to Article 50.

How long will the EU delay Brexit?

It’s up to the EU.  

Mr Johnson was forced at the weekend to submit a legally required request to the EU for a Brexit delay under the terms of the anti-No Deal Benn Act. The Benn Act suggested a delay to the end of January next year.

He made clear at the time that he did not want any such extension to be granted by the bloc and he will do the same when he calls his European counterparts in the coming hours. 

However, Mr Tusk said the EU would consider the request for a delay at the weekend even though Mr Johnson said he did not want one.  

And following last night's Commons showdown,  Mr Tusk tweeted: 'Following PM Boris Johnson'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.'  The last line of Mr Tusk's tweet suggests he believes there will not need to be an emergency EU summit to agree an extension and that European leaders will be able to agree to terms simply by writing letters.

The question for the EU now is whether to grant the extension proposed in the Benn Act or to offer a shorter delay.  

Mr Johnson will want the shortest possible extension of a matter of weeks. If the EU sign that off, he can come back to Parliament with a deadline looming and tell MPs they have to pass his deal or it’s No Deal. 

However, EU leaders are keen not to be seen to interfere in domestic politics, and are more likely to offer a three-month flexible extension. This would last until the end of January, but would expire the minute the deal passed the Commons. 

 A delay to January 31 would almost certainly prompt Mr Johnson to shelve his deal and try to force an early election on the grounds that postponing Brexit for three months is totally unacceptable.  

Either way, with each passing day it will become more and more difficult for Mr Johnson to hit the Halloween deadline and a delay is increasingly a possibility. 

Are we headed for No Deal?

Following last night’s events in the Commons, No Deal is highly unlikely. The EU don’t want it and will offer an extension to avoid it, and Mr Johnson would rather his deal went through. But an accidental No Deal is possible, if only one EU country were to refuse to agree to a delay, and Parliament fails to push through Mr Johnson’s deal in time.

Will there be a general election?

If the EU impose a long extension, or if he can’t get his deal through, then Mr Johnson would try to force an election. Jeremy Corbyn has demanded one so often he would look pathetic if he refused. 

But can Mr Johnson force an election?

No. To meet the requirements of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, two thirds of MPs must vote for an election, which means about 100 Labour MPs. 

Many Labour backbenchers, and shadow cabinet ministers, don’t want to go to the polls, fearing catastrophic defeat, and instead want further delay in the hope of securing a second referendum and a chance of deposing Corbyn. 

There are other possible routes to an election such as a short Bill, or a confidence motion from the SNP, but these are not straightforward.

Is the Bill dead?

No. In fact it is very much alive and if the EU were to offer a short Brexit delay Downing Street could elect to bring forward a new programme motion settingf out a new and slightly longer timetable. 

If a new programme motion were to be agreed by MPs the WAB would then immediately move onto its committee stage - the bit in the legislative process when MPs can table amendments. 

There would be lots of amendments brought forward by MPs in a bid to change the PM's divorce deal. 

But Number 10 would be most wary of two: One which would force the UK to be in a customs union with the EU after Brexit and one on making the PM's agreement subject to a second referendum. 

The customs union amendment is expected to be brought forward by Labour. It would make post-Brexit free trade deals all but impossible. 

A similar proposal in April lost by only three votes. Downing Street aides have made it clear they will not swallow a customs union – the issue on which Mr Johnson quit Mrs May's government – and suggest such an amendment would kill the Bill. 

With Tory rebels backing away from the idea yesterday, any vote would hinge on actions of the DUP, SNP and Labour leavers.

The second referendum amendment would be likely to be tabled by Labour backbenchers. 

It would propose a Brexit delay until the country has voted on Brexit for a second time with Mr Johnson's deal pitched against Remain. 

If it passed, Mr Johnson would then have to abandon the Bill and – in the short term – Brexit. 

But despite the determined efforts of Remain campaigners, the Commons has never voted for a second referendum, and there seems little prospect of a majority emerging at this stage. 

 

What happens after MPs backed Boris Johnson's Brexit deal?

The comments below have not been moderated.

The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline.

We are no longer accepting comments on this article.