Knife-edge vote on Prime Minister’s Brexit deal

Boris Johnson. PIC: Getty
Boris Johnson. PIC: Getty
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MPs should consider how long they could delay and frustrate the process of Brexit, Boris Johnson claimed last night as he geared up for the biggest vote of his premiership so far to play out in the Commons.

The Prime Minister’s Brexit deal is set to be put in front of MPs in a extraordinary Parliamentary session today, where they will cast their vote on whether to accept it or not.

The vote is expected to be tight, though several Labour MPs in South Yorkshire have now defied their party’s leadership to say they will back the PM.

READ MORE: Justine Greening - Why those who say today’s vote gets Brexit done are telling you ‘porkies’

Mr Johnson described the vote as “a very big moment for our country”. He said: “But also it’s a big moment for our democracy and parliamentarians because I do think we have a choice, which is we have to consider how long we can delay and seem to frustrate what was a pretty clear democratic expression of the will of the people and I think that it would be a great and a fine thing if we could get it done and come together tomorrow.”

Mr Johnson told ITV News: “It busts out of [the] backstop, the previous problem with the deal, the previous deal that kept us locked in the customs union and the single market so, it’s a vast, vast, vast step forward.

“And what it also does, which is good, is it creates a period, a transition period from end of October, end of this month, there’s a period of standstill giving certainty to business and at the end of that it is perfectly correct that we will move to the new arrangements.”

Mr Johnson insisted the agreement did not signal a “race to the bottom”. It came as Emmanuel Macron turned up the pressure on MPs to back Mr Johnson’s new Brexit deal by raising doubts that any further delay will be granted.

The French president said that the EU would not grant a further delay to Article 50 unless there are “some major changes”.

His threat added to one from European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, however reports have suggested Germany’s Angela Merkel believes a delay is inevitable if MPs reject the agreement.

With no Commons majority and the DUP dismissing his plan, the PM must appeal for support from the Tory rebels he expelled and Labour MPs wanting to avoid a deal-less departure.

Meanwhile a legal bid arguing Mr Johnson’s Brexit deal was unlawful has been rejected by a judge in the Court of Session in Scotland.

The PM may face another stumbling block today as exiled Tory Sir Oliver Letwin has requested an amendment that, if selected by Commons Speaker John Bercow, could see MPs withhold support of the deal until the Brexit legislation has been safely approved. This could trigger an extension.