Parliament must be handed "a straight up-and-down vote" on Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal, Downing Street said, a day after MPs pilloried his strategy on Saturday, forcing him, in line with the Benn Act, to send a letter asking the EU for a new Brexit extension. Refusing to sign it, he stressed that the MPs should decide once and for all between saying “yes” or “no” to the deal on Monday:
"We cannot allow Parliament's letter to lead to Parliament's delay", he stressed, while Speaker John Bercow is to decide if such a vote will take place.
What Happened to Brexit Over the Weekend?
Having cut a new deal with EU negotiators last week, the prime minister intended to bring it to Parliament on Saturday and to ask parliamentarians to deliver a “meaningful” domestic vote.
Tory Brexiteers largely supported the strategy, as did a number of Labour MPs and independent lawmakers, but the vote was delivered a blow, as instead of having their say on the deal as such, MPs cast their votes in favour of an amendment, proposed by Tory MP Sir Oliver Letwin that suggested the deal could be approved no earlier than the legislation to implement it had been.
The rhetoric triggered the Benn Act, adopted in September, to be applied, which required Johnson to send a letter to Brussels requesting a new delay, although there were no guarantees the delay would be granted. With this in mind, the Cabinet brought up Operation Yellowhammer – a contingency plan to opt for a no-deal Brexit in the event there could be no further prolongation.
Johnson notably penned the said letter to the EU, but added no signature, instead accompanying it with a signed note reading he believed it would be wrong to extend the Brexit deadline again.
Current State of Brexit Affairs
With Monday’s binary vote just around the corner, No. 10 lamented Saturday’s developments, or lack thereof, with regard to moving close to the Halloween deadline:
"Letwin's delay amendment turned Saturday into a meaningless vote and denied MPs and the public the chance to end the uncertainty", the Cabinet commented, expressing hope that after Monday, Parliament will be able to move on to “focus on the things that really matter” for the British public – “priorities like the NHS, police, and schools".
"Parliament needs a straight up-and-down vote on the deal - do MPs want to respect the referendum like they claim to... or do they want to frustrate and cancel Brexit altogether?" it added.
According to a government source cited by the BBC, the public is anticipating moves being conducted “at pace” so as to “get the withdrawal agreement passed", referring to legislation - the Withdrawal Agreement Bill – that the government also plans to table during Monday’s Commons debate.
In a parallel move, Scotland’s highest court will also take a look at the matter on Monday. It was asked earlier this month to sign a letter fulfiling the terms of the Benn Act on the prime minister's behalf if he failed to do so, but judges abstained from ruling on the issue to allow the political debate to unfold.
Meanwhile, speculation continues to run high on a no-deal divorce, with Michael Gove, in charge of Britain’s preparations for the EU exit, announcing on 20 October that if no extension is granted, the UK will meet the 31 October deadline without any deal. PM Johnson has, for his part, reiterated multiple times that he rules out the possibility of an extension, in a bid to deliver on the promise he made while being sworn-in to his top governmental post in summer.