Boris Johnson has issued an eleventh-hour appeal to MPs to back his EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill, despite complaints from MPs that he is attempting to ram it through the Commons at high speed.
MPs are beginning a three-day Brexit showdown – including two late-night sittings – in which the government’s opponents will attempt to pass amendments on customs, a second referendum and blocking no-deal.
HOW WILL THE PM TRY TO GET HIS BREXIT DEAL PASSED?
- The government has published the EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill, which seeks to put the prime minister’s Brexit deal into law
- Tuesday: A second reading of the bill will be held in the Commons
- Wednesday: MPs will continue their debate on the legislation and could sit until 1am
- Thursday: The government wants MPs to complete their consideration of the legislation, with a crucial vote possible around 7.30pm
- The bill will then pass to the House of Lords
But speaking ahead of the debate after a day holed up in Downing Street in meetings with senior ministers and wavering backbenchers, the Prime Minister urged MPs not to repeat Saturday’s Commons vote for a further delay.
“We have negotiated a new deal so that we can leave without disruption and provide a framework for a new relationship based on free trade and friendly cooperation,” he said.
“We are leaving the European Union but we will always be European.
“I hope parliament today votes to take back control for itself and the British people and the country can start to focus on the cost of living, the NHS, and conserving our environment.
“The public doesn’t want any more delays, neither do other European leaders and neither do I. Let’s get Brexit done on 31 October and move on.”
But there will be further protests from MPs at the government’s plan to complete the Bill’s passage through the Commons in just three days, with a view to it becoming law before 31 October.
Labour’s Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer said: “This is a Bill to implement Boris Johnson’s deeply flawed plan for Brexit.
“It is outrageous to deny parliament the chance to scrutinise this incredibly important legislation properly. Ministers are trying to bounce MPs into signing off a Bill that could cause huge damage to our country. We can’t trust this prime minister.
“The truth is Boris Johnson knows that the more time people have to read the small print of his deal, the more it will be exposed for the risks it represents to our economy and communities across the country.”
In the Commons, after the Government tabled its proposed timetable for the three days of debate, there were heated protests directed at the Leader of the Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg.
Leading the protests, Independent Group for Change MP Chris Leslie said: “This motion that we are now debating, the first in a series of attempts by the government to stage what is essentially the ramming through of a piece of legislation, in a disorderly way.
“We know for example that Commons committee stage of the Treaty of Rome was not three days, or two days, it was 22 days.
“For the Maastricht Treaty, 23 days in committee stage. The Treaty of Lisbon 11 days. Treaty of Amsterdam five days.
“Then the Single European Act four days and then the smallest of them all the Treaty of Nice three days at committee, so in total five days of Commons consideration for the Treaty of Nice to be reformed.
“This is an unprecedentedly short period of time to dedicate to a massive and momentous piece of legislation.”
But Mr Rees-Mogg hit back: “The second reading debate will be the normal second reading debate and will go to seven o’clock tomorrow.”
And he told the Change group’s, Anna Soubry: “On the second day, 12 hours of sitting divided into four sections of three hours with a specific section reserved, and she might be pleased about this, with three hours specifically reserved for motions relating to a second referendum.
“So MPs who are concerned about that will have the opportunity to debate it.
“And then on Thursday, eight hours for proceedings on consideration up to and including third reading.”
WHAT DOES THE WITHDRAWAL AGREEMENT BILL INCLUDE?
- It enshrines the government’s commitments on post-Brexit workers’ rights in UK law
- It sets out that extending the Brexit transition period beyond 31 December 2020 – which maintains the status quo of the UK’s relationship with the EU – has to be approved by parliament
- It commits the government to seeking MPs’ approval for a statement on its objectives for the future UK-EU relationship within 30 sitting days of the UK’s exit from the bloc
- It removes the necessity for a “meaningful vote” to be passed for the withdrawal agreement to be ratified