Emergency sitting of parliament creates more Brexit chaos, not less
This week MPs assembled in the House of Commons for the first emergency sitting of parliament since the Falklands crisis 37 years ago.
The prime minister’s intention was to finally drive his newly negotiated Brexit deal with the EU through the Commons before the 11pm deadline which would trigger The Benn Act.
However, as seems to be the case with all things Brexit, the plan did not play out and so the week ahead looks likely to be fraught with more twists and turns and uncertainty.
Of course, the ‘do or die’, Brexit mantra that Johnson has been living by, relies on the fact that there will be no more extensions and the UK will be out of the European Union by Halloween.
The deal that he had re-negotiated last week was soon attacked by MPs on all sides on Saturday and the anticipated vote was actually withdrawn by the government at the last minute, as a result of an amendment put forward by Tory MP Oliver Letwin.
Although the DUP weren’t going to support Johnson’s new deal, it was hoped that there would just be enough support from Labour MPs from leave constituencies to vote the deal over the finishing line.
The amendment was a tricky bit of legislation that endevoured to close a loophole that could mean that MPs might pass Johnson’s deal but would be unable to vote on legislation necessary to implement the Withdrawal Agreement and so a no-deal Brexit could still occur on October 31.
MPs voted by 322 to 306 in favour of the amendment, the original motion was withdrawn and the prime minister was forced to write a letter to the EU, requesting an extension as laid out in The Benn Act.
In true truculent and bullish style, while the PM did write the letter, in accordance with the law, he did not sign it and he wrote a second letter in his own name citing that he did not believe in the one he had sent first.
This is one of those situations where action is strangely less absurd than fact and dramas which are made about it in the future, will seem almost incredulous.
Will the EU grant another extension? Will Johnson bring his del back to the Commons this week? Will Bercow deem it can be on the order book for a second time? Will there be a general election? Will there be a second referendum?
The soap opera continues.