Britain’s ‘Super Saturday’ Brexit showdown in parliament

Nellie Chapman
October 19, 2019

Prime Minister Boris Johnson spent Friday frantically twisting arms to get wavering MPs behind his Brexit deal, with a looming vote in parliament teetering on a knife-edge.

As European leaders gathered for an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday, Johnson and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker announced a breakthrough. Its fortunes - and Britain's immediate fate - rests in the hands of a few undecided MPs.

The vote appeared to be tight, and it could yet be disrupted.

Downing Street told the Times that Johnson would focus the next 24 hours on "selling a great deal and importantly selling the opportunity to parliament to get Brexit done".

Johnson's Conservative Party holds only 288 seats in the 650-seat House of Commons so he will have to rely on support from other parties and independent lawmakers to get over the line. Though he is obliged by law to seek a Brexit delay if his deal falls, Johnson said the United Kingdom would still leave on October 31. So prepare for a frenzied day in Westminster, as the Prime Minister gets back from Brussels and attempts to drum up support for his plan.

If the Commons rejects the deal, Johnson will be forced by law to ask the European Union to delay Brexit, for what would be the third time. He has said he would "rather be dead in a ditch" than do so.

Eurosceptic newspapers urged MPs to back the deal.

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"I think October 31 date should be respected".

'I ask everyone to cast their mind forward to the end of today - and imagine what it could be like if the new Brexit deal has been approved.

"In the end and we have done all the preparatory work to ensure Australia is as best placed for any scenario in relation to Brexit", Senator Birmingham said heading into the Liberal Party's Federal Council meeting in Canberra on Saturday.

Rejecting the deal would create an "extremely complicated situation", he added.

Johnson took office in July vowing to keep to the October 31 Brexit deadline, deal or no deal. The new Brexit draft has dropped the controversial Irish backstop to avoid a hard border in favor of giving the devolved parliament of Northern Ireland a say on any future arrangement concerning the territory.

In a divided parliament where he has no majority and opponents are plotting maximum political damage ahead of an imminent election, Johnson must now win the support of 320 lawmakers to pass his deal through a booby-trapped legislature.

That vote could be in doubt because expelled Conservative lawmaker, Oliver Letwin, has proposed that the decision to back a deal or not be deferred until separate legislation to implement the terms of the deal has passed through parliament. The party is allied with the Conservatives under a formal arrangement, but the DUP says it can not support the Brexit deal. There are 288 Conservative seats and most would be expected to vote with the prime minister.

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