LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was dealt a fresh blow on Monday when the speaker of parliament denied him a second shot at getting his Brexit deal passed just 10 days before the deadline.
House of Commons speaker John Bercow — a colourful figure who has played a starring role in the Brexit drama — said Johnson was not allowed to push for the same vote twice in the same parliamentary sitting.
Lawmakers decided at their first Saturday session since the 1982 Falklands War to force the Conservative leader to ask Brussels to postpone the Oct 31 divorce by three months.
“The motion will not be debated today because it would be repetitive and disorderly to do so,” Bercow said.
Johnson is trying to secure a break from Brussels that severs many of the island nation’s economic relations with Europe after 46 years of EU membership.
But lawmakers refused on Saturday to give their backing to his revised divorce plan until all the domestic legislation needed to ratify it has passed.
Johnson’s foes are now forging new alliances and trying to attach amendments that could either force him to push for closer trade ties with the EU — or abandon the deal and accept a third delay this year.
The option of extending Brexit is now in the hands of the 27 remaining EU member states.
Britain has been struggling to agree on how to leave the EU ever since narrowly backing Brexit in a 2016 referendum that did little to end old arguments about the country’s place in the world.
Johnson has built his entire Brexit strategy on the premise of using the pressure of time to force everyone to stop bickering and agree an exit plan by the end of the month.
European officials have the option of extending the deadline for just a few weeks or possibly many months to give Britain more time to finally make up its mind.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said he “would not rule out a short technical extension”.
Scotland’s top civil court decided on Monday to continue watching Johnson and intervene should he try to avoid accepting any delay offered by the EU.
The focus now switches to the government’s attempt on Tuesday (today) to get lawmakers to support domestic legislation in the accompanying Withdrawal Agreement Bill.
Success or failure then would set the course for the coming week and largely determine whether Johnson’s will get his Oct 31 divorce.
But the deck seems stacked against Johnson.
The main opposition Labour Party is trying to create a cross-party alliance that would back Johnson’s deal on the condition that it is fixed to keep Britain in a customs union with the EU.
Labour is trying to create a quick marriage of convenience with Johnson’s nominal allies in Northern Ireland’s hardline Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
The DUP broke ranks and voted against Johnson’s agreement on Saturday because it created new trade regulations for goods moving between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
Published in Dawn, October 22nd, 2019