BORIS JOHNSON will try again to get his Brexit deal through parliament in one piece today.
The PM has tabled a vote for this afternoon, with minister Dominic Raab claiming: ‘We seem to have the numbers in the House of Commons.’ But if thwarted, Mr Johnson will face putting the deal back to MPs in a Withdrawal Agreement Bill, which opponents aim to alter with ‘dozens’ of amendments.
A UK-wide customs union with the EU and a second referendum are among changes they want to tack on.
Foreign secretary Mr Raab said Mr Johnson could win today’s straightforward vote because many other MPs want the deadlock to end.
‘A lot of people say get this done and move on,’ he told BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show yesterday.
But speaker John Bercow has warned he might not allow it, complaining of being ‘blindsided’ by the bid to hold the vote again. ‘Rather than pronounce with sound and fury now, I will reflect on the matter and report to the House on Monday,’ he told MPs during Saturday’s special sitting.
Mr Johnson had hoped the weekend showdown in the Commons would end with MPs approving the deal he has agreed with Brussels. But instead they backed a proposal from Tory exile Sir Oliver Letwin to delay making a decision on it.
That forced the PM to ask the EU by letter for a three-month Brexit delay beyond October 31 — as dictated by the Benn Act that MPs had previously voted through against his wishes.
But Mr Johnson did not sign the letter and sent another one, which he did put his name to, making clear that he opposed a hold-up and wanted Brexit sealed.
Labour’s John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, told Sky News show Sophy Ridge on Sunday: ‘He may well be in contempt of parliament or the courts themselves because he’s clearly trying to undermine the first letter and not signing the letter. He’s behaving a bit like a spoilt brat.’
The EU could refuse a delay and may take its time replying to the request letter — with European Council leader Donald Tusk saying after receiving it that he would ‘start consulting with EU leaders’.
And Michael Gove, the minister in charge of planning for a no-deal, predicted that Brexit would go ahead on October 31.
He said he had put a bet on it with his colleague Matt Hancock and — asked how much he had wagered — replied: ‘Well that is between me and the health secretary.’
Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer, who appeared on the Marr show with Mr Letwin and Mr Raab, reached out to the DUP after its MPs refused to back Mr Johnson’s deal.
The PM’s former allies have denounced the provision in the deal for a customs border dividing Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.
And shadow Brexit secretary Mr Starmer told the party ‘our door is open’.
He said whatever deal gets through should be subject to a referendum but admitted that would require about six months of preparations. ‘I accept that’s probably the timeframe,’ he added. ‘It could be shortened a bit but probably not by much.’
If the PM loses today’s vote, or it doesn’t take place, ministers could introduce the withdrawal agreement bill tomorrow. Downing Street wants to have the bill through the Commons by Friday. But opposition MPs could make a bid to grab control of parliament’s timetable today, forcing a delay by pushing debates on the legislation into November.