The first Saturday sitting of Parliament since the outbreak of the Falklands War in 1982 was dubbed ‘Super Saturday’.
For the Government, it was supposed to be the day that Parliament endorsed Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal. It seemed that Boris had a majority, despite alienating the Government’s confidence and supply partner, the Democratic Unionists over the issue of Northern Ireland.
One amendment changed the dynamics of what was meant to be such a historic day in Westminster and European politics.
Sir Oliver Letwin, MP for West Dorset, one of the 21 Conservative MPs who lost the Tory whip on September 5 after defying the Government by voting for the Benn Act. The Benn Act mandated the Prime Minister to seek a three-month extension if a deal was not agreed by today.
Letwin’s amendment stated that Parliament would not endorse the Withdrawal Agreement agreed by the UK Government and EU-27 until all the legislation had passed the necessary stages. It prevented the UK from exiting the EU on a no-deal basis on October 31 in the event of any delay in the ratification process.
The votes of the DUP were crucial as the amendment passed by 16 – 322 to 306. It forces Boris Johnson to request an extension of Britain’s membership of the EU until January 2020. The Prime Minister previously said he would rather ‘die in a ditch’, as opposed to asking the EU to extend our current membership of the bloc.
Three MPs from the region voted against the amendment. These were Graham Brady, Conservative MP for Altrincham and Sale West, Chris Green, Conservative MP for Bolton West and Ivan Lewis, Independent MP for Bury South.
So what happens now?
Number 10 has confirmed that the meaningful vote, which was supposed to occur after the Letwin amendment vote, will not take place today as Tories exited the Commons benches in their droves.
Following the vote, in a point of order, the Prime Minister said: “I will not negotiate a delay with the EU and neither does the law compel me to do so.”
Despite Letwin’s success, the supremacy of European law means that the UK remains due to exit the EU on Halloween. If the Prime Minister complies with the law, the EU are under no rush to grant an extension – it will almost certainly require an emergency EU Council summit.
It is possible that the heads of the member states could withhold granting a request until there has been a parliamentary vote on the Withdrawal Agreement bill next week.
Image courtesy of BBC News via Twitter, with thanks.