Boris Johnson has been forced to “pause” his Brexit deal legislation after MPs rejected his fast-track Commons timetable.
Despite the prime minister winning an historic Commons majority for a deal just minutes earlier, MPs voted down the accelerated three-day timetable for the Withdrawal Agreement Bill by 322 to 308, a majority of 14.
It was a fresh twist on a night of high Brexit drama in the Commons as pro-Leave Labour MPs and hardline Tory Brexiteers joined forces to vote for the Withdrawal Agreement Bill at second reading.
The vote, which the PM won by a majority of 30, showed MPs back the fresh Brexit deal he has struck with Brussels. Some 19 Labour ‘rebels’ were among those supporting the PM.
But scrapping the timetable means Johnson cannot make good on his “do or die” pledge as the UK is unlikely to leave on October 31.
The PM paid tribute to MPs who backed the deal and told the Commons that “one way or another, we will leave the EU with this deal”.
He also confirmed the legislation will be “paused” until the EU reaches a decision on extending Article 50 and Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg said MPs will return to debating the Queen’s speech on Wednesday.
Johnson said an extension from EU leaders is not guaranteed, however, and that the UK would step up no-deal preparations, adding: “I must express my disappointment that the House has again voted for delay rather than a timetable that would have guaranteed that the UK would be in a position to leave the EU on October 31 with a deal.”
He added: “And let me be clear: our policy remains that we should not delay, that we should leave the EU on October 31.
“That is what I will say to the EU and I will report back to the House. And one way or another we will leave the EU with this deal to which this House has just given its assent.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said Johnson was “the author of his own misfortune” as he called for the government to work with opposition MPs to draft a new timetable.
“That would be the sensible way forward, and that’s the offer I make on behalf of the opposition tonight,” he said.
Johnson could now demand a fresh general election as the scrapping of the timetable makes it extremely difficult for the PM to ram through the legislation by his preferred October 31 deadline.
Responding to the votes, Rees-Mogg admitted it was “very hard to see how it is possible” for the Withdrawal Agreement Bill to pass through the Commons and the Lords before the October 31 deadline.
Labour MPs who backed the deal called for more time to scrutinise the deal at its next stage in parliament.
Stoke Central’s Gareth Snell told Rees-Mogg: “Some of us voted for second reading precisely so we could get on to the next stage for more scrutiny, and didn’t support the programme motion because we did not believe there was sufficient time.”
Manchester Central Labour MP Lucy Powell added MPs would look to amend the Bill at committee stage, too.
Rees-Mogg replied: “I am not unsympathetic to the point about time, it is simply the deadline of October 31 which was set by the European Union, and therefore we are compressed in the time available to get this Bill delivered, which is why I was willing to support the programme motion and felt that it was reasonable under the circumstances.”