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Another Brexistential crisis: So what happens now?

Boris Johnson’s first Commons defeat as Prime Minister raises more questions on the long and winding Brexit road.

Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg relaxing this evening.
Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg relaxing this evening.
Image: PA Wire/PA Images

Updated 4 September, 7am

UK MPS HAVE voted to debate a bill that, if passed, would extend the current Brexit deadline to 31 January 2020 at the earliest.

Boris Johnson’s first Commons defeat as Prime Minister in which 21 “rebel” Tory MPs voted against him raises a number of questions as to likely next steps on the long and winding Brexit road. 

So, what’s next? 

MPs now have the chance to pass all stages of Labour MP Hilary Benn’s bill as last night’s motion means the debate on Benn’s bill has to happen before 5pm this Friday. It is  thought it will be voted on today and then go to the House of Lords tomorrow. 

The bill is designed to extend Article 50 and prevent the UK from leaving the EU without a deal. It would push the current Brexit deadline of 31 October to 31 January next year at the earliest and put a ban on a no-deal Brexit on the statute books. 

‘Dither, delay, confusion’

After last night’s debate, however, Johnson – who has consistently said the UK is leaving the EU by 31 October “do or die” – said he plans to bring forward a motion for an early general election.

A senior government official told the BBC earlier yesterday that a motion for an election would be put forward if MPs take the first steps towards passing legislation to block no deal this week – which they now have. 

Boris Johnson is confident he would win the required two-thirds majority for his motion to be passed, the official added. He has yet to table that motion, however. 

Following last night’s vote, Johnson said the move by MPs to further Benn’s bill would “hand control” of Brexit negotiations to the EU and bring “more dither, more delay, more confusion”.

He also told MPs that he’d no choice but to press ahead with efforts to call an election, saying: “The people of this country will have to choose.”

An election must be held 25 days after a no-confidence vote or the dissolution of parliament; meaning if it were prompted this week, 17 October is the most likely date for polling day, as it’s the first available Thursday, which is the weekday UK elections are usually held. 

Today MPs will gather back in the House of Commons to debate Benn’s bill. The debate on the bill will likely take place in parliament at 7pm, with a vote at 10pm. 

But first, Prime Minister’s Questions take place from 12pm so we’ll know more then. Johnson could call a general election in attempt to gain the upper hand and enshrine his authority as PM. 

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said, however, that Benn’s bill should be passed before any election is held.

The game goes on…

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