Boris Johnson's Brexit bill 'in limbo' as he wins one vote and loses another

PUBLISHED: 19:18 22 October 2019 | UPDATED: 21:14 22 October 2019

Mitch Benn says Brexit has become more a faith movement than a political movement. Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire.

Mitch Benn says Brexit has become more a faith movement than a political movement. Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire.

Boris Johnson has won the support of the House of Commons on his Brexit bill in principle, but rejected his proposed timetable, calling for more time to debate and discuss the plan.

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The House voted by 322 to 308 against the programme motion which would have required the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) to clear all its Commons stages by the end of Thursday.

Just minutes earlier MPs had voted by 329 votes to 299, majority 30, to approve the Bill in principle - the first time the Commons has been prepared to back any Brexit deal put before it.

However they were not prepared to accept the tight timetable demanded by the Government in a bid to ensure there was no further delay to Britain's departure from the EU.

Earlier, Johnson warned he would pull the whole Bill and go for a general election if they rejected his timetable and decided to "delay everything until January or even longer".

Johnson has won just two of 12 votes in parliament since he became prime minister in July.

Boris Johnson has said the government will niw "pause" the Withdrawal Agreement Bill until the EU reaches a decision on a Brexit extension.

He told MPs: "I will speak to EU member states about their intentions," adding: "Until they have reached a decision we will pause this legislation."

He added: "Let me be clear. Our policy remains that we should not delay, that we should leave the EU on October 31 and that is what I will say to the EU and I will report back to the House.

"And one way or another we will leave the EU with this deal, to which this House has just given its assent.

"And I thank members across the House for that hard-won agreement."

Speaker John Bercow said the programme motion vote meant the Bill was now considered to be "in limbo" and will not proceed through the Commons this week as planned.

Jo Swinson, leader of the Lib Dems, said the fight against Brexit is not over.

"This is not a done deal, and I won't stop fighting for our place in the European Union. Liberal Democrat MPs will always fight to keep the best deal we have as members of the European Union.

"Boris Johnson tried to ram his Brexit deal through parliament tonight, because he knows it's a bad deal.

"But he was thrown a lifeline by Labour MPs who voted for his deal, despite all the damage it will do to our economy, our NHS and our environment.

"Now parliament has rejected his timetable, it is clear that the Prime Minister needs to get an extension so that we can have a People's Vote and offer people the chance to remain in the European Union."

Margaret Beckett, co-chair of the People's Vote Political Committee, said MPs had stood up to Boris Johnson's bullying tactics.

She said: "MPs have stood up to Boris Johnson's attempt to bully them into ramming his Brexit law through parliament with the minimum of scrutiny and no one should be taken in by the Prime Minister's bluster that the vote to pass the Bill at second reading means he has MPs' approval to force this on the people.

"Instead, parliament has rightly said it needs the time to give it proper scrutiny and to table amendments which could make it less damaging to our country.

"And, like many on both sides of the House of Commons, I do not regard a General Election as any way to decide an issue of this magnitude. It would confuse Brexit with every other issue under the sun and could well merely result in another hung parliament. It would neither end the chaos - or the arguments.

"The only democratic way to settle this once and for all is through a confirmatory referendum that offers a clear choice between the best Brexit deal parliament can agree or staying in the European Union."

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