- Boris Johnson is set for a showdown week with MPs.
- Parliament on Saturday voted for Brexit to be delayed after Johnson struck a new deal with the EU.
- Johnson’s government will try to avoid delay by passing key legislation this week.
- However, MPs are set to use the legislation as an opportunity for key amendments.
- The amendment with the biggest chance of success seeks to keep the UK in a customs union with the EU.
- Another amendment will push for a referendum on Johnson’s deal.
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LONDON – The future of Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal is in doubt as members of Parliament plot to keep the United Kingdom tied to European Union customs rules after Brexit, or force him to put it his deal to a second referendum.
Johnson’s government will on Monday attempt to hold another vote on whether to approve his deal, after a previous vote was blocked on Saturday by MPs seeking to force him to request that Brexit is delayed until next year.
The latest attempt is likely to be blocked by the House of Commons Speaker, John Bercow, meaning that Johnson will have to bring forward the legislation designed to implement his deal.
This is set to face guerilla warfare in parliament from opposition MPs seeking to soften the deal, or force Johnson to put it to a second referendum. If successful, MPs could force Johnson to withdraw his deal and attempt to hold a general election instead.
The EU is poised to grant the UK a three month extension to the Brexit deadline if Johnson’s deal fails to pass through Parliament this week, moving exit day to February 1, the Times reports.
Johnson’s plan to take the UK out of the EU on October 31 was derailed on Saturday after MPs passed a law which means Johnson must ask European leaders for Brexit to be delayed until early next year.
Oliver Letwin, the MP behind the plan, said a delay would act as an “insurance policy” to prevent the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal at the end of October.
UK could remain in EU customs union or hold a second referendum
- DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images
In the meantime, Johnson’s Conservative government on Monday will try to avoid another delay by securing a House of Commons majority for the new deal. Johnson has said he would rather “be dead in a ditch” than delay Brexit.
The government wants to hold a “meaningful vote” on the Brexit deal on Monday, with projections suggesting that there is a slim House of Commons majority in favour of his revised agreement with Brussels.
However, House of Commons Speaker Bercow is expected to block such a vote taking place, on the grounds that the government cannot table the same motion twice in the same session of parliament.
The real action is set to get underway on Tuesday when the government holds the first votes on its Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB.)
WAB is separate from the Brexit deal itself, but must secure parliamentary approval in order for Britain’s exit from the EU to be recognised in law. Johnson wants to get it through Parliament as soon as possible.
However, opposition MPs plan to use WAB to make key amendments to the Brexit deal.
The biggest headache for the government is an amendment which seeks to keep the UK in a customs union with the EU after Brexit. A similar amendment was defeated by just three votes earlier this year.
Retaining a customs union with the EU would breach Johnson’s biggest red line of removing the UK from the EU’s customs territory. It also would inhibit the UK’s ability to sign its own free trade deals.
However, a customs union would guarantee the continuation of tariff-free trade and reduce the number of checks on goods moving between the UK and the EU after Brexit.
Labour’s Shadow Security Minister Nick Thomas-Symonds on Sunday evening told BBC Radio 4 that the opposition party would instruct its MPs to vote for the amendment. “A customs union is going to be one of the amendments that comes through and that is something that is going to have a very good chance of getting a majority,” Nick said.
The Democratic Unionist Party, that props up Johnson’s government, was also considering supporting the amendment, according to reports, on the basis that it would allow the whole of the UK to have the same customs relationship with the EU after Brexit.
The staunchly unionist party strongly opposes Johnson’s deal with the EU as if implemented, it would force Northern Ireland to continue following EU customs rules after Brexit, while the rest of the UK would not.
However, DUP MP Jim Shannon on Monday morning ruled out the prospect of his party voting for a customs union, however.
He told Sky News: “We are clear where we stand on the customs union, it’s something we cannot support.”
Another amendment that MPs are set to table calls offers to support Johnson’s deal – as long as the government puts it to the public for a second referendum. It is spearheaded by Labour MPs Peter Kyle and Phil Wilson.
This amendment has a smaller chance of success, as a significant number of Labour MPs remain opposed to a new Brexit referendum, or what some campaigners call a “People’s Vote.”
The official People’s Vote campaign decided not to push for a parliamentary vote on referendum amendment to take place on Saturday, as it was not confident that it had the numbers to win.