If anyone had hopes (or fears) that Brexit drama would end today with the UK parliament voting to approve the deal that Boris Johnson had agreed upon with the EU and thus leave the EU on October 31, those were shattered when, despite his wheeling and dealing, cajoling, and threats, the vote was 322-306 on a plan that withheld support from the deal until further conditions were met. The plan was put forward by a former Conservative cabinet member, Oliver Letwin. As a result of this vote, the government did not put forward its withdrawal plan for a vote and so today was yet another humiliating defeat for Johnson, who as prime minister has a 100% record for defeats by his ruling Conservative party, a record that will be hard to beat.
Instead of backing Johnson’s agreement in a “meaningful vote”, MPs passed an amendment tabled by a cross-party group of MPs led by Oliver Letwin by 322 votes to 306 – a majority of 16.
The prime minister said he was not “daunted or dismayed” by the defeat, and would press ahead with tabling Brexit legislation next week. MPs are likely to take the opportunity to table a string of amendments, including on trying to force a second referendum.
The move by cross-party MPs was aimed at forcing Johnson to comply with the terms of the Benn act, which obliges him to write to the EU to request a Brexit delay, if he had not won approval for his deal by 11pm.
Johnson, in true Trumpian style, is vowing that he will not seek an extension, whatever the law requires, saying “I will not negotiate a delay with the EU, and neither does the law compel me to do so”. His assertion that the EU would not grant an extension was undercut by them saying that if he requested it, they would grant it.
During the debate there was, despite rain, a massive demonstration outside parliament with hundreds of thousands of people from all over the UK who opposed Brexit and were demanding a People’s Vote on whatever deal was arrived at, who let out a loud cheer when the vote result was announced.
So what happens now? When it comes to Brexit, where upheavals are the rule rather than the exception, who the hell knows?