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13 Nov 2019 20:47
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  •   Home > News > Politics

    Boris Johnson’s Brexit bill timetable rejected by British MPs

    The British Prime Minister says it is now up to the European Union to "make up their minds over how to answer Parliament's request for a delay".

    British MPs have rejected a timetable for Boris Johnson's Brexit deal, in the latest hurdle to the United Kingdom leaving the European Union.

    It followed the House of Commons passing a vote to approve a Brexit deal for the first time, allowing Mr Johnson's Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) to proceed to the next stage, which could lead to further amendments.

    The first vote passed with 329 supporting the bill and 299 against it.

    But crucially, Mr Johnson lost a subsequent vote to approve a rapid timetable to push the bill through Parliament in just three days.

    The margin was closer for the second vote, with 322 against and 308 in favour.

    Earlier, Mr Johnson had threatened to withdraw the agreement bill and push for a general election if MPs voted against the timetable, but he backtracked after the vote and said the bill would instead be paused.

    Mr Johnson said it was now up to the EU to "make up their minds over how to answer Parliament's request for a delay".

    "I will speak to EU member states about their intentions," he told the House after the vote.

    "Until they have reached a decision we will pause this legislation.

    "Let me be clear, our policy remains that we should not delay."

    Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MPs went against Mr Johnson in both votes, with deputy leader Nigel Dodds asking Mr Johnson for a detailed discussion with his party.

    "The House has made a fairly wise decision to allow further time for detailed examination of some of the most important legislation that we will ever have to consider, particularly given the impact on Northern Ireland," he said.

    "I would say to the Prime Minister as he reflects on the votes on Saturday and he studies the votes tonight, that he would sit down with us and talk to us again about what can be done even at this late stage to ensure that we join in this great quest to get Brexit done, but as one United Kingdom."

    The DUP last week declared it was against a deal that would avoid an Irish backstop, but would see Northern Ireland face different rules than the rest of the UK and would not fully escape EU customs rules and regulations.

    "[The deal] drives a coach and horses through the professed sanctity of the Belfast Agreement," Mr Dodds said.

    EU set to approve delay

    EU Council President Donald Tusk said hewould recommend the other 27 EU members accept Britain's request for a Brexit extension, which is likely to be until January 2020.

    "Following PM Boris Johnson's decision to pause the process of ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement, and in order to avoid a no-deal Brexit, I will recommend the EU27 accept the UK request for an extension," he tweeted.

    "For this I will propose a written procedure."

    Irish PM Leo Varadker welcomed the passing of the WAB and echoed the EU in awaiting the next move.

    "We will now await further developments from London and Brussels about next steps including timetable for the legislation and the need for an extension," he said.

    Election threat

    The 110-page Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) was published on Monday night and the Government had hoped to push it through the Parliament by Thursday evening, a short timetable that had drawn criticism from opposition parties who said it was too little time to examine the detail.

    Before the vote on the withdrawal bill Mr Johnson had warned MPs if the timetable was not approved he would pull the bill and push for an early election before Christmas.

    But after the timetable was defeated in the House he made no mention of a snap election, which would require at least two-thirds of MPs to approve — something he failed to achieve during his last bid to do so at the beginning of September.

    'Childish blackmail'

    Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn said the Prime Minister was "the author of his own demise" but also offered to open up talks on a "sensible" timetable for the deal to go through Parliament.

    "Work with us, all of us, to agree a reasonable timetable and I suspect this House will vote to debate, scrutinise and I hope amend the detail of his bill," the Labour leader said.

    "That would be the sensible way forward and that's the offer I make on behalf of the opposition tonight."

    Tom Brake, the Liberal Democrats' Brexit spokesman, said MPs "should not be bullied into voting in favour of this ridiculously short timetable".

    "The Tory Government's threat to pull the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, if they lose the vote on their rushed timetable, is childish blackmail," he said.

    Mr Johnson was forced to write a letter to the EU asking for an extension to the October 31 deadline after losing a vote on Saturday — but he also wrote a second letter that outlined his opposition to any delay.

    © 2019 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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