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BORIS JOHNSON WAS celebrating this week after securing a deal with the EU but there was disappointment for the Prime Minister today after his plans for a Meaningful Vote were scuppered. 

MPs voted to force him to seek a further Brexit extension from the EU, throwing his plans to leave by 31 October into disarray. 

The Letwin amendment, a cross-party bid to seek an extension to ensure legislation backing up the new Brexit deal is through the House before the end of the month, was passed this afternoon by a margin of 322 to 306.

You can read our full report here – and here’s how the debate played out… 

Thanks for joining us for another historic day in the House of Commons. I’m Dominic McGrath and I’ll be guiding you through the action as Boris Johnson attempts to steer his shiny new deal through parliament.

Boris Johnson is on his way to the House of Commons for what will be the biggest day so far of his premiership. 

brexit Johnson faces a whole host of challenges today if his deal is to win the support of MPs. Source: Victoria Jones/PA Wire/PA Images

This morning has already brought with it plenty of drama. The man of the moment is Oliver Letwin, a former Tory MP who was expelled by Boris Johnson for voting against the government. 

You might recognise his name from the so-called “indicative votes” from back in the glory days of Theresa May’s government. Well, he’s still causing trouble. 

His amendment would force Boris Johnson to ask for an extension from the EU by withholding approval of the deal unless and until implementing legislation has passed.

Sound complicated? You can read about it here – it’s causing a real headache for the government. 

The BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg is reporting that the day is basically over if MPs do vote for the amendment, which would be either a wild twist or a major disappointment depending on your allegiances. 

Another layer of drama – if you can stomach it – is that no one actually knows whether Boris Johnson can win enough support from MPs. 

A major boost for Johnson is that the ERG seem ready to back the deal. Steve Baker, the chairman of the group of radical Brexiteers, is reportedly telling MPs to back the prime minister. 

It’s something of a come-up for the ERG, who previously used the DUP as their parliamentary bellwethers – if they didn’t back the deal, it wasn’t good enough for the ERG. 

Not for the first time this week, things aren’t going well for Arlene Foster and Nigel Dodds. 

Things are going to kick off very shortly. If you want a quick guide of what to look forward to over the course of the next few hours, we’ve got you covered. 

  • Explainer: What you should expect as MPs prepare to vote on Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal

Or if you’re looking for an explanation of what actually are the differences between Johnson’s deal and May’s deal, well, our reporter Gráinne Ní Aodha has a piece on that too. 

Despite nothing much in the 585-page Withdrawal Agreement having been changed, the things that have been changed are complicated to explain, she writes. 

Have a read of the piece here

 

 

 

Sometimes, you’ve got to admit that you don’t know what’s going to happen. 

Less than 24 hours ago, today was going to be a set piece vote on Boris Johnson’s deal. 

Now, it’s all a little less clear. To say the Letwin amendment has muddied the waters is something of an understatement. Even constitutional and parliamentary experts don’t know what to expect. 

BREAKING: The Letwin amendment has been selected by Speaker John Bercow, along with the Kyle-Wilson amendment. 

Things are beginning now and Boris Johnson is about to speak. He is likely to be unimpressed about facing the prospect of the amendment – and of course a dreaded extension. 

Johnson is speaking about the divisions sown by Brexit – something he knows all too well about considering the split in his family over exiting the EU. 

His speech is significantly more measured than previous appearances before the House of Commons. 

Johnson beginning by praising European “culture and civilisation” – he seems to be signalling to wavering Labour MPs that he does want a close relationship with the EU after Brexit. 

Most of all, he says, his deal will “heal the rift in UK politics”

“Now is the time for this great House of Commons to come together and bring the country together today.”

Capture Source: House of Commons

“Today this house has a historic opportunity to show the same breadth of vision as our European neighbours, the same ability and resolve to reach beyond past disagreements by getting Brexit done,” Johnson tells MPs. 

Johnson has said that his deal has delivered for Northern Ireland. “It ensures an open border on the island of Ireland,” he says. 

“We have made consent a fundamental element of this new deal so no arrangements can be forced on Northern Ireland if they don’t work for Northern Ireland.”

The DUP looks less than convinced.

Capture Source: House of Commons

“They said we couldn’t re-open the withdrawal agreement. They said we couldn’t change a comma. They said we couldn’t abolish the backstop. We’ve done both.”

“It is now my judgement that we’ve reached the best possible solution.”

Johnson is telling MPs that delaying Brexit is a “delusion”. The EU, he is saying, are sick of it. 

It’s a clever ploy, but perhaps not entirely convincing. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and European Council President Donald Tusk have both indicated that they probably would be open to an extension. 

“It is a great prospect and a great deal and I comment it to the House.”

Famous last words? Boris Johnson has finished speaking and Jeremy Corbyn is up next. 

Expect him to be less than enthusiastic about the deal. 

brexit Source: House of Commons

“Supporting the government would merely start the firing pistol on the race to the bottom and standards,” the Labour leader says. 

Corbyn is basically quoting Tory ministers back at Boris Johnson in a bid to get across his message that the prime minister’s deal would usher in some kind of free trade utopia or “Singapore-on-Thames”. 

Capture Source: House of Commons

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar gets a shout out from Jeremy Corbyn – not sure how he’ll feel about that. 

“The Taoiseach said, and I quote, ‘it allows the all-island economy to continue to develop and one that protects the European single market’. Some members of this House do support an all-Ireland economy but I didn’t think that included the government and the Conservative and Unionist Party.”

You can hear the wry chuckles, right?

belgium-brussels-eu-summit-new-brexit-deal Source: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

“For the last 50 years, the vast majority of the Conservative Party believed that membership of the European Union gave us a strong voice, politically, in the world as one of the three leading members,” says everyone’s favourite Europhile Tory Ken Clarke

He wants Boris Johnson to commit to a close economic relationship with the EU and suggests he will back the deal once the domestic legislation putting the agreement into law is passed. 

Instead of properly answering, Johnson latches onto Clarke’s mention of about “EU federalism” to bash European “elites” who want to create a super state. 

You can see Clarke muttering “rubbish”. Also bonus points for guessing who’s setting beside Clarke. 

Capture Source: House of Commons

The SNP’s Ian Blackford has been bashing the deal, pointing to the detrimental impact on Scotland. 

Johnson shrugs it off with a mention of, well, England’s victory over Australia in the Rugby World Cup. 

If you’re flicking between this liveblog and the sporting action, have a quick read of our coverage of the game. 

Johnson has fielded a few soft questions from Tories Ian Duncan Smith and David Davis, both avid leavers. 

Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson accused Johnson’s deal of “removing protection on workers’ rights and putting a border down the Irish sea”. 

Expect to hear a lot more of this kind of criticism today. 

“Weariness in this house over Brexit should not be an excuse for weakness over Brexit or weakness on the union.”

The DUP are up and Nigel Dodds is angry. Yet even if Dodds and his fellow MPs speak a good game today, the reality is that whatever happens today is a real defeat for the party. 

Being left behind by Boris Johnson was not the part of the plan

brexit Source: House of Commons

If Nigel Dodds was expecting some kind of sympathetic hearing or a mea culpa from Boris Johnson, he was mistaken. 

Boris Johnson’s response is telling and worth quoting in full:

“I do think it a pity that it is thought necessary for one side or another in the debate in Northern Ireland to have a veto on those arrangements. Because after all, the people of this country have taken a decision embracing the entire four nations of this country by a simple majority vote… and I think that principle should be applied elsewhere.”

It’s hard to see how the confidence and supply arrangement between the DUP and the Conservative Party can survive this. Perhaps Johnson doesn’t think he needs it anymore (and he might be right) but his words in the House of Commons today will certainly add insult to injury in the DUP camp. 

A long list of MPs are now lining up to question Johnson on his deal and asking about what comes next. 

And don’t expect it to end anytime soon. I’ll be keeping an eye on the debate and looking out for any choice quotes or important moments. 

Important contribution here from Lady Sylvia Hermon, the only non-DUP voice representing Northern Ireland in the chamber. 

She’s asking Boris Johnson to reassure the unionist community that “there is nothing in this deal that undermines the constitutional status of Northern Ireland as guaranteed by the Good Friday Agreement and the consent principle”.

Leo Varadkar, she says, has made this commitment. But she needs to see “a British prime minister making that commitment to the unionist community”. 

Johnson says he has made that commitment and points to the fact that former unionist party leader Lord Trimble has said he’ll back the deal. 

It’s unclear how she’s going to vote today – she definitely didn’t sound like the biggest fan of the deal. 

Capture Source: House of Commons

Interesting comment from trade expert Sam Lowe here on Boris Johnson’s comments in the House of Commons earlier about what his deal will mean for customs checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. 

One important thing to bear in mind is that while the debate is providing important moments and is a necessary step in scrutinising Johnson’s deal, it’s not the type of scrutiny involved in an ideal legislative process.

If Johnson’s deal passes, there will only be a handful of days for MPs and the House of Lords to pour over the Withdrawal Agreement Bill and submit amendments if the UK is to leave on 31 October.

That kind of frenetic legislative pace is pretty much unprecedented.

For context, the Maastricht Treaty in 1993 took over 40 sitting days to pass through the UK parliament – see this handy graphic from the Institute for Government. 

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Important moment from the debate in parliament. Answering a question from Independent MP Frank Field, Johnson said: 

“My fear is that the vote we will have will not prove to be meaningful. Given the solemnity of this occasion, that would be a great pity.”

*Letwin amendment alert*

While Johnson didn’t mention the dreaded amendment by name, he seems to have conceded that it will pass. This means that he – and the government – expect to be writing to the EU asking for an extension this evening. 

The question is, what comes after that? 

Fancy putting a face to this soon-to-be famous amendment? This is the mild-mannered Oliver Letwin, who told the BBC’s Nick Robinson earlier this year that “I was looking forward to retirement”. 

One prime minister later and former Thatcherite Letwin is still causing trouble. 

brexit Source: House of Commons

“Today is the time for this House to come together and move forward. Someone who previously did that…. was the former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Mo Mowlam,” Stephen Barclay says to cries of “How dare you?”

He cites her biography Momentum to claim that the UK needs the same momentum today as he brings forward the main motion today.  

Mowlam, who died in 2005, was a Labour Party politician and is best remembered for helping to broker the Good Friday Agreement. 

This is one of the motions MPs are debating now. It asks MPs to approve the deal negotiated by Boris Johnson. 

The second motion, which proposes taking the UK out of the EU without a deal, will in theory be voted on if the first motion is voted down. 

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The BBC’s Nicholas Watt has a good thread on what the government’s response to the Letwin amendment will be, if it actually passes later today. 

Put simply, it means that we’re heading for an extension but the government will try and push on with the Withdrawal Agreement Bill to try and get it on the statute book as soon as possible to fulfil Letwin’s requirements. 

ITV’s Robert Peston is reporting that the government thinks the Letwin amendment will win by five votes

Meanwhile, Stephen Barclay is still taking questions. “This is a deal for everyone,” he says. 

Daragh Brophy here taking over liveblogging duties from Dominic McGrath for the next while. 

As the debate continues in the House of Commons, pro- and anti-Brexit demonstrators are gathering in London this afternoon. 

A large-scale People’s Vote rally, backing another referendum, is starting in Park Lane and will head to Parliament Square later. 

There are even some ‘Morris dancers against Boris’ taking part in the anti-Brexit march. 

brexit Source: Andrew Matthews

brexit Source: Jacob King

brexit Source: Yui Mok

Norman Lamb, the only Lib Dem MP who was on the fence over backing the deal has confirmed he will NOT now support it. 

The latest word on the Letwin amendment from the BBC newsroom is that it’s closer than was regarded earlier. 

Some MPs who had been expected to back it are now indicating they won’t. 

“It opens up the possibility that if the Letwin amendment doesn’t get through, then it’s game on for Boris Johnson, it’s game on for his big vote on his deal,” Norman Smith, the BBC’s assistant political editor, says. 

“I suspect he will feel if he can see off the Letwin amendment, maybe he can get his deal across the line.

“If he doesn’t, then we’re told he’ll send MPs home, he’ll simply pull the vote, there won’t be a meaningful vote today.

“Then everyone will come back on Tuesday, we’re told for another crack at this.”

The Letwin amendment is a plan backed by cross-party MPs that would withhold approval of the deal unless and until implementing legislation has passed.

Labour earlier confirmed it would back the amendment today. 

 

Here’s an aerial shot of that People’s Vote march in London.

Thousands of people are taking part calling for Johnson’s deal to be put to a public vote.

124 Source: Sky News - screengrab

may

Theresa May has been speaking in the Commons. 

She says that if the main parties renege on their election promises to deliver a Brexit deal they will be guilty of a massive con job. 

“I don’t like referenda but I think that if you have one then you should abide by the result.” 

She says that if Labour really cared about people they would vote to back the deal. 

“If you don’t want no deal you have to vote for a deal,” she says. 

“If you want to deliver Brexit if you want to keep faith with the British people then vote for the deal today,” she says, to cheers from the Tory benches. 

It’s a strong performance from the former PM – the most animated turn we’ve seen from her perhaps for years. 

May said, by the way, as she rose that she felt a certain sense of “deja vu”. Johnson turned around to her to say he knew how she felt. 

Laughter ensued. 

What times. 

ilson

The DUP’s Sammy Wilson has been on his feet. 

He’s not happy – but then again, that’s no surprise: of all the DUP MPs he’s been the most forceful in his opposition to this deal in recent days. 

I have heard it said that if there was one extra camera placed on the land border that would represent a break in the Good Friday Agreement, he says. 

He asks: If that’s the case why isn’t this new customs border in the Irish Sea regarded as a hard border?

He also lambastes the ‘simple majority’ mechanism of consent in the revised deal – insisting each community in the North should be allowed a veto. 

Dominic McGrath here taking over from Daragh Brophy. And here’s a clip of that Theresa May speech, which prompted cheers and (the good kind) of laughter in the House of Commons. 

So just a quick note on timings. We’re expecting a vote on the Letwin amendment between 2.30pm and 3pm. 

If the Letwin amendment does pass, it’ll turn the meaningful vote into something of a damp squib. But crucially, we still don’t know how the House of Commons will vote – it could come down to only a few votes. 

And just in case some MPs are still making up their minds, the government is still briefing against the amendment. 

In case you want to get a sense of the mood outside parliament, here’s our piece on the second referendum march in London. 

It includes the words “anti-Brexit morris dancers” – which surely is the most British form of protest imaginable. 

brexit Source: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire/PA Images

So the last few speeches are taking place and the House of Commons is filling up. 

There are 11 Labour MPs who are confirmed backers of the deal. But how several others will vote remains uncertain – making it unclear what’s actually going to happen in the next few minutes. 

We also don’t know how Syliva Hermon will vote – though she didn’t seem too enamoured of the deal earlier. 

Capture Labour's Rebecca Long Bailey addresses the House of Commons. Source: House of Commons

As usual, Michael Gove is summing up the argument for the government. 

“If we dither and delay, then I’m afraid people will feel a sense of depression and dismay and demoralisation that the parliament that they hoped would keep its promises has chosen once again to duck its responsibilities,” he said. 

He is urging MPs not to vote for the Letwin amendment (and displaying a fantastic skill for alliteration). 

Capture Source: House of Commons

So after a long day of debate, we’re finally getting to a crunch vote. We can expect a result of the vote on the Letwin amendment in around 10-15 minutes. 

For a quick reminder of what the Letwin amendment is, give this a read

A little bit of crucial information in the mean time – it seems the DUP will back the Letwin amendment. 

This might just get the amendment over the line in terms of votes. 

The Letwin amendment has succeeded. 

The result:

MPs for the amendment: 322

MPs against the amendment: 306

This means that Boris Johnson will have to go to Brussels this evening to seek an extension.

“The best thing for the UK and for the whole of Europe is for us to leave with this deal on 31 October,” Johnson says.

“I will not negotiate a delay with the EU and neither does the law compel me to do so,” he tells MPs. 

He seems to have been expecting this outcome. 

“No delays and I will continue to do all I can to get Brexit done on 31 October,” Johnson says. 

Does this mean we could all end up back in the Supreme Court?

“We believe that ultimately the people must have the final say on Brexit,” Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn tells Johnson. 

He says Johnson is “apparently prepared to defy a law passed by this parliament”. 

It really is unclear what happens next. Firstly, in terms of the meaningful vote on the deal this afternoon -  we presume that the vote on the deal motion will take place but any importance has now been taken out of it. 

But an even bigger issue is whether Johnson is bluffing, pitching to voters ahead of an election or seriously daring MPs to take him to court?

Put simply, the drama isn’t over for today. 

There is a good thread below from Raphael Hogarth from the Institute of Government on what happens next. Johnson will ultimately try and rush through the Withdrawal Agreement Bill before 31 October. 

Remember, this leaves precious little time for MPs and the House of Lords to scrutinise this complex legislation. 

The BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg is also reporting

“There is going to be a lot of arguing over what the difference is between asking for a delay and actually negotiating one – Benn Act is not explicit about negotiation but there is important principle at stake of not frustrating the law.”

For anyone wondering, the DUP did vote for the Letwin amendment. 

This no doubt made a huge difference in the bid to defeat Boris Johnson – something I’m sure some members of the party relished after the drama of recent says. 

Sylvia Hermon also voted for the amendment – we were much less sure how she was going to vote. 

You can see here how everyone else voted. 

For anyone not yet exhausted by parliamentary proceedings, it seems like Jacob Rees Mogg has just announced another meaningful vote for Monday. 

This means the drama and the headaches are far from over. 

On a separate note, UK reporters are saying that Number 10 is refusing to comment on what Johnson said in the House of Commons. 

The EU was watching closely anyway. This is from the Chief Spokesperson for Jean-Claude Juncker. 

So where does the vote leave us? 

  • Boris Johnson is going to be forced by combination of the Benn Act and Letwin amendment to seek an extension from the EU. What form that extension takes remains to be seen. 
  • It looks like there’ll be another meaningful vote on Monday. 
  • The government will likely try to rush through legislation implementing Johnson’s deal. Whether they’re successful in that remains to be seen. 

On that note, that’s all from us at TheJournal.ie. Goodbye from me, Dominic McGrath. Keep an eye on the site for all the latest as the Brexit intrigue continues this evening. 

To finish off, here’s the moment Johnson lost that key vote on the Letwin amendment. 

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