Tue, 14 Jul 2020

Boris Johnson is making a fresh bid to deliver on his promise to take Britain out of the European Union on Oct. 31 amid mounting optimism that he now has the backing to get his deal through Parliament.

Cabinet ministers made clear the premier is undeterred after a vote on Saturday forced him to write to the EU asking for a three-month extension to the deadline.

Johnson will on Monday try again to put his deal to a vote in the House of Commons in an attempt to win lawmakers' endorsement in principle for the agreement he struck with the EU last week. He first tried to win Parliamentary support for his deal on Saturday but MPs headed off that attempt and forced him into a delay instead.

Johnson's fresh bid to seek MPs' approval on Monday puts him on a possible collision course with Commons Speaker John Bercow. The speaker could decide not to allow the vote because it amounts to asking the Commons to decide on the same question twice in the same session, in breach of parliamentary rules.

Read: This really is a crunch week for Brexit

That would not be the end for Johnson's deal, though. At the same time, the government will introduce the detailed legislation needed to deliver his Brexit agreement in the hope of fast-tracking that law through both houses of Parliament before the Oct. 31 deadline.

Enough Votes

Ministers insisted on Sunday that it now has the backing of the 320 members of Parliament needed to win a vote on approving Johnson's Brexit deal.

"We appear to have the numbers to get this through," Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told BBC TV's "Andrew Marr Show."

That optimism was shared by Michael Gove, the minister in charge of no-deal Brexit preparations, who said the risk of a no-deal Brexit had increased because there was no guarantee the EU would grant Britain's request for an extension.

The government confirmed on Sunday it was triggering Operation Yellowhammer, its contingency plan to make sure Britain can deal with the fallout from a chaotic departure from the EU.


Johnson made clear to the EU that he'd rather Britain leave without delay and he refused to sign the letter requesting an extension, one of three sent to Brussels late Saturday. European Council President Donald Tusk is now consulting member states on how to respond.

The Times of London on Sunday, citing unnamed diplomatic sources, said the EU is ready to grant a three-month extension if Parliament fails to approve the deal, with the UK able to leave on the 1st or 15th of November, December or January if an accord is ratified. If Johnson calls a second referendum, or meets other obstacles, governments led by Germany would push for a longer extension, possibly pushing the deadline to June 2020, the Times said.

Johnson received a boost when former cabinet minister Amber Rudd, who walked out of the government and the Tory party in protest at the expulsion of 21 colleagues, said she and many among those who were kicked out are ready to support his deal.

The prime minister also has the backing of a small number of Labour MPs, though he may struggle to win over many more. Crucially, Labour wants a customs union with the EU and for any deal to be put to another referendum with an option to stay in the bloc, demands on which there appears little room for compromise.

The main opposition party was last night accused of trying to obstruct Brexit after Keir Starmer, its Brexit spokesman, said Labour would back amendments on a second referendum and a customs union.

Though it is doubtful that either proposal could command a majority in the Commons, Starmer made a direct appeal to the Conservatives' former allies in the Democratic Unionist Party to rethink their opposition to a customs union.

But the DUP's Jim Shannon ruled that out on Monday, telling Sky News a customs union is "something we cannot support."

The DUP's 10 votes on Saturday made the difference between defeat and victory, and there are no signs they are softening. The party has deep reservations about anything that creates any kind of border between Britain and Northern Ireland, such as customs checks in the Irish Sea, and wants a stronger consent mechanism that hands a greater say to the regional assembly.

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