Wednesday

11th Dec 2019

MPs vote on Johnson's latest push for Brexit deal

British prime minister Boris Johnson will, on Tuesday (22 October), urge British legislators to back his Brexit bill to allow the UK to leave the EU on 31 October.

The European Parliament, in the meantime, is awaiting developments in the British parliament before itself ratifying the new withdrawal agreement.

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EU countries are also holding off on granting a Brexit delay, as requested earlier by Johnson.

In Westminster, MPs are to vote on whether to back Johnson's 110-page withdrawal agreement bill, which enshrines the Brexit deal into domestic law and which was published on Monday.

They will also vote on whether to approve an intensive three-day timetable to consider the detailed legislation that underpins the accord and to ram it through the House of Commons by Thursday.

The latest vote follows two Johnson fiascos in Westminster since he struck the new accord at an EU summit last week.

On Saturday, MPs declined to back the deal in principle in what was called a "meaningful vote", until they had seen the detailed legislation.

On Monday, the parliament speaker also declined to hold a second meaningful vote on grounds it would have been "repetitive and disorderly" to do the same as on Saturday.

Opposition MPs are still saying that three days is not enough time to scrutinise the legal details of the deal properly.

But the government says that if MPs support the Brexit bill they must support the tight timetable at the same time.

According to the 110-page bill published by the government on Monday, MPs will also have the opportunity to vote on the government's mandate to negotiate a future trade deal with the EU.

And ministers will have to seek the parliament's support if they want to diverge from EU standards in future.

EU waiting

For their part, the leaders of the European Parliament have decided to wait for the ratification process in the UK before MEPs hold a final vote on the new Brexit agreement.

"On Thursday, the conference of presidents will again discuss the latest state of play, we will continue to act in a calm, responsible manner and move forward rapidly when needed. This is our duty," EU parliament president David Sassoli said in a statement on Monday.

MEPs on the constitutional affairs committee have started to examine the agreement, Sassoli added, saying "parliament will be the final actor to have its say on this matter".

While the next plenary meeting of the parliament is in mid-November, beyond the Brexit deadline, an extraordinary session could still be held before 31 October.

The UK's internal struggle to pass the deal has raised again the prospect of a delay to the UK leaving the EU.

Germany's economic affairs minister Peter Altmaier said that he supported a Brexit extension.

"We have already twice agreed to an extension. I have repeatedly said as my own opinion I am not ideologically opposed to extending again a few days or a few weeks if you then get a good solution that excludes a hard Brexit," Altmaier was quoted as saying by Reuters, referring to a no-deal Brexit.

France's EU affairs minister, Amelie de Montchalin, also said Paris was willing to again extend Brexit, but that the onus was on the British government now to pass the deal or justify a delay.

"What is certain is that we need a yes or a no before October 31. We need clarity. There cannot be a new delay without it being justified," she said.

New Brexit deal drops Irish border backstop

The EU and the UK has agreed to a revised Brexit deal that drops the contentious backstop on the island of Ireland, and "sqaures the circle" of keeping the Irish border open. EU leaders are expected to endorse it Thursday.

Brexit deal now hinges on Northern Irish unionists

Brexit negotiators held marathon talks but the Northern Irish unionists appear to be axing UK prime minister Boris Johnson's revised deal, as EU leaders gathered in Brussels to discuss Brexit but also other divisive, long-term issues.

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