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Johnson seeks to skirt delays for Brexit vote

By EARLE GALE in London | China Daily | Updated: 2019-10-22 09:30


Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks ahead of a vote on his renegotiated Brexit deal, on what has been dubbed "Super Saturday", in the House of Commons in London, Britain Oct 19, 2019. [Photo/Agencies]

Thwarted PM presses on, but lawmakers ready blocking moves in Parliament

Having been denied the major Brexit showdown he wanted on Saturday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will this week lobby potential waverers among lawmakers and prepare for more fireworks as he pushes for a decisive vote on his proposed deal to take Britain out of the European Union.

He had wanted that decisive vote to be held on Oct 19, after negotiating a deal with the EU, but lawmakers voted instead for the government to first pass all relevant legislation associated with the deal, before they would consider a yes/no vote.

It meant Johnson failed to meet the Oct 19 deadline imposed by Parliament through the Benn Act, which compelled him to either have a deal approved by Saturday or write to Brussels seeking a delay to the scheduled Oct 31 exit date.

Johnson did not want to ask for that delay but, being required to do so by law, sent a letter to the EU that he did not sign, casting doubt on whether the EU will grant more time and opening the door to claims he may have broken the law, something that will be challenged in court this week.

Johnson said on Monday he wants Parliament to dispense with what he sees as delaying tactics and conduct a vote on his deal.

"We cannot allow Parliament's letter to lead to Parliament's delay," he said.

He would have liked a vote on Monday but such a move would require the support of John Bercow, the speaker of the House of Commons, and Bercow enforces parliamentary rules that prohibit the same issue being debated and voted on within the same session of Parliament.

The prime minister's office, in a statement, said: " (The) delay amendment turned Saturday into a meaningless vote and denied MPs and the public the chance to end the uncertainty. ... 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?"

MPs who oppose Johnson's deal plan to try to block it in the coming days by introducing a wide range of amendments for Parliament to debate and vote on, including one that would keep Britain in the EU's customs union and another that would subject any deal to a confirmatory referendum.

The Labour Party's Brexit spokesman, Keir Starmer, said on the BBC's Andrew Marr program: "It's got to go back to the public."

But Rishi Sunak, the chief secretary to the Treasury, said on Radio 4's Today program that those wanting to amend the government's legislation "are ultimately wanting to frustrate, delay or cancel Brexit altogether", which is at odds with the decision to leave the EU made in the 2016 referendum, "and we should be clear about that".

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told The Guardian newspaper the government is confident it can win any vote on Johnson's deal.

Steve Baker, chairman of the Conservative Party's hardline pro-Brexit faction, the European Research Group, is among those who will now support it.

"The point is that for people like me,... we are going to have to choke down our pride and vote in the national interests to get Brexit done," he said.

Michael Gove, the Cabinet minister responsible for preparing for a no-deal Brexit, said on Sunday: "We are going to leave by Oct 31. We have the means and the ability to do so."


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