Boris Johnson’s bid for a ‘Super Saturday’ on Brexit ended in humiliation – and yet more delay. Here’s the Letwin amendment explained, how the PM has asked to delay Brexit, and what comes next
Boris Johnson has officially asked the EU for a Brexit delay after he was dealt yet another humiliating Commons defeat.
Last night the Prime Minister wrote to Brussels asking for a three-month extension to the October 31 deadline – whether or not he gets a deal.
But he refused to sign it – and also sent a second, signed letter saying he doesn’t want to delay at all.
Jeremy Corbyn tweeted: “I told the Prime Minister to obey the law and despite his petulant posturing and bluster he finally has – he’s asked for an extension. His damaging deal was defeated.”
It comes after MPs backed another delay to Brexit instead of holding a straight up-and-down vote on the Tory leader’s deal with Brussels.
The showdown on ‘Super Saturday’ – as Parliament sat for the first time on a weekend since 1982 – happened at the same time as ‘a million’ protesters marched outside demanding a second referendum.
But in reality, the can might only be kicked down the road for a few weeks. And crucially the Brexit deal – the thing we should all really be talking about – could still be passed in a matter of days.
So how can all these things be true at the same time? Here’s an explanation of what happened on Saturday – and what happens next.
Boris Johnson lost a historic House of Commons vote – which meant he was legally obliged to ask for a Brexit delay by 11 pm on Saturday.
Here’s how it worked.
The Prime Minister had wanted to force MPs into a straight “meaningful vote” on his Brexit deal. That would have either accepted or rejected it – the end of the story.
And if it’d been accepted, it would have locked in a legal countdown to October 31.
But instead, MPs voted 322-306 for an amendment to “withhold” approval for the Brexit deal, “unless and until” every part of it has passed into UK law.
Sir Oliver Letwin, the ringleader, insisted he wasn’t trying to scupper Brexit – merely setting up an insurance policy to prevent no-deal by accident.
But the consequence is we still didn’t have a Brexit deal by 11 pm on Saturday. That’s a legal deadline laid down under a law called the Benn Act.
The Benn Act said Boris Johnson must send a letter to the EU asking for a three-month delay to Brexit, if there was no agreement by 11 pm.