Well that was unexpected.
Boris Johnson’s brand spanking, shiny, glorious, definitely-not-Theresa May’s-deal-in-lipstick deal didn’t even get a vote.
Instead, Oliver Letwin, affable spaniel-turned politician, tabled an amendment that delayed a decision to be made on Brexit, and it passed by 322 votes to 306.
So the first Saturday sitting of Parliament in decades was actually not the showdown it was billed to be – it was, instead, yet another delay to Brexit.
Depending on your leaning, this might be a much-needed chance to scrutinise the deal or just another kick down the road of a pretty well-beaten can.
OH GOD WHY WON’T IT END
Yep. I know. It’s still happening.
So, what happened today? Parliament sat on a Saturday for the first time since the Falklands War in order to either approve or reject Boris Johnson’s newly-negotiated deal with the EU. If they had accepted the deal, Brexit would finally have been delivered.
However. Sir Oliver Letwin, MP for West Dorset, tabled an amendment to the bill. The bill, in this case, was Johnson’s deal, and bills have to be passed through Parliament in order to turn them into law. Amendments are suggested by MPs as a way of altering or manipulating bills.
Olly Bolly Let-Let’s amendment to the Brexit bill was to ensure that today’s sitting isn’t the final say on the deal, but that Parliament’s consent can only be given once the finer details of the deal have also passed through Parliament. He succeeded, which took all of the impetus out of today’s proceedings.
BUT WHY, JESUS H CHRIST, WHY
Yes, I know, it’s frustrating. Everyone, from the Queen to my mum’s dogs, wants Brexit to be done.
There was a real threat lurking within Parliamentary procedure. Before Letwin’s amendment, Parliament could have approved Johnson’s deal today. However, that wouldn’t be the end of it – more votes would be required to pass the finer details of the Bill.
Therein lies the threat – hard Brexiters could have voted for the deal today, then vote against the legislative fineries next week. If they did this, we would have a no-deal Brexit.
Bolly Wolly Wetling’s amendment protects against that. The fineries have to be approved first before Parliament’s consent can be given.
Brexit is delayed. Until next week. Monday, in fact.
I know. It’s insufferable.
But we are nearly there. What comes next?
Because Parliament hasn’t given approval to the new deal, Boris Johnson is legally required to ask the EU for an extension because of the Benn Act. This will be until January 2020.
Johnson has said he’s not going to do this, yet he is legally bound to do so. It’s going to be a pretty dodgy bit of legal tightrope walking from here on in.
But it’s fair to assume that the extension will happen – the EU do not want to be seen as being the instigators of a no-deal Brexit, so will grant us one if asked.
So what now? The deal may well be passed next week, but no-deal is now off the table. Many of those supporting #LetWINNING’s amendment have said they will vote in favour of the deal, but wanted to protect against no-deal. The deal may very well still pass on Monday.
But, if it doesn’t, we now have a Brexit deadline of at least January. This gives time for a general election or, maybe, a second referendum (although probably with even more time given by the EU).
The can, once again, has been kicked. The road continues.
But it will run out soon, one way or another. While Johnson had a considerable amount of momentum this week, he’s lost it all now. Brexit hangs in the balance.
It could go either way.