Brexit deal: Prime minister Boris Johnson said the deal is on pause


 

MEMBERS of parliament tonight (22) rejected prime minister Boris Johnson’s plans to approve his Brexit deal by October 31, minutes after giving preliminary approval to the agreement.

MPs voted by a majority of 14 to reject his timetable to push through the legislation this week, making it almost inevitable that Brexit will be delayed beyond next week’s deadline.

The prime minister told MPs that the government would pause legislation to ratify its Brexit deal with the European Union while the bloc decides whether to offer a delay to Britain’s planned October 31 exit.

Speaking after parliament rejected the government’s planned timetable for the legislation, Johnson said: “The EU must now make up their minds over how to answer parliament’s request for a delay.”

“I will speak to EU member states about their intentions. Until they have reached a decision, we will pause this legislation. Let me be clear, our policy remains that we should not delay,” he said.

A spokesman for the prime minister said Johnson will hold conversations with other EU leaders later tonight to determine what their next steps are.

 

Late on Tuesday evening, MPs voted by 329 to 299 to approve in principle the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, which implements the divorce treaty that the prime minister agreed with European Union leaders last week.

The deal covers EU citizens’ rights, Britain’s financial settlements, a post-Brexit transition period until at least the end of 2020 and new trade arrangements for Northern Ireland.

It also sets out vague plans for a loose free trade agreement with the EU after Brexit.

But some MPs are seeking to amend the bill to demand Britain stay in the bloc’s customs union, and others want a greater say for parliament in deciding future ties.

The prime minister was forced on Saturday (19) to ask EU leaders to postpone Brexit – something he once said he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than do – after MPs declined to back his new deal.

Opposition parties, many of whom dislike the Brexit deal, have said it is “ludicrous” to expect proper scrutiny of the legislation in less than three days.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has called for a second referendum on Brexit, said Johnson was trying to “blindside” MPs into supporting a “rotten bill”.

It “fails to protect our rights and our natural world, fails to protect jobs and the economy, fails to protect every region and every nation in the UK”, he said.

The Democratic Unionist Party, Johnson’s Northern Irish allies, accuse him of duping them about new trading arrangements for the province.

DUP MP Sammy Wilson said he “nearly choked” when he heard Johnson’s assurances, adding: “The prime minister thinks I can’t read the agreement.”

Johnson has warned that seeking further time would kill any hope of leaving the EU with a deal next week – and risks a “no-deal” exit if the EU declines to approve a delay.

The president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, is consulting EU leaders about Britain’s request to delay Brexit until January 31, a spokeswoman for the European Commission said this evening after the vote in London.

Tusk previously said the EU should be “ready for every scenario”, although he added on Twitter: “A no-deal Brexit will never be our decision.”

In Paris, French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said he saw “no justification at this stage” for further delay.

“We’ve been waiting for three years for this decision,” he said.

“It’s important for it to be announced today, because otherwise there will no option except ‘no deal’, which is not the solution we prefer.”

Leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, said parliament will resume its debate on the government’s legislative programme tomorrow (23), after MPs rejected by 322 votes to 308 the timetable for a law to ratify its Brexit deal, with many saying it was not enough time to scrutinise the bill.

The government had hoped to pass the Brexit legislation through the lower house of parliament by the end of Thursday (24).

Businesses and markets on both sides of the Channel fear a “no-deal” Brexit, where Britain severs ties with its closest trading partner with no new plans in place after 46 years of integration.

British business will still face a new wave of prolonged uncertainty.

Jonathan Portes, an economics professor and part of “The UK in a Changing Europe” research group, said: “Under almost any scenario, Brexit uncertainty will continue to weigh on investment.

“And the UK economy may well be in recession, due to a combination of Brexit uncertainty and global factors.”

Under Johnson’s deal, Northern Ireland would remain part of the UK customs area, with goods imported to the province from outside the EU will be subject to UK duties as usual.

But if goods from non-EU countries come into the EU via Northern Ireland, it will be up to Britain to apply EU customs.

“The UK in a Changing Europe” estimates that even a decade after Brexit, Johnson’s deal could slash British GDP per capita by between 2.3 per cent and seven per cent, compared with the nation remaining in the European Union.

The forecast is close to the government’s own predictions given one year ago.

Britain’s biggest business lobby group, the CBI, is calling for a future treaty with the EU to reduce tariffs and quotas as much as possible to preserve the fluidity of trade with the United Kingdom’s largest export market.

A future treaty must address also the thorny issue of trade in services that represents the bulk of the UK economy.

On manufacturing meanwhile, the CBI on Tuesday published a survey showing that UK output continued to fall in the quarter to October.

“A combination of Brexit uncertainty and weaker global growth are clearly hitting sentiment and export prospects, with job prospects at their weakest since the global financial crisis” more than a decade ago, noted CBI chief economist Rain Newton-Smith.

According to the National Farmers’ Union, “the terms of our future relationship will have a lasting impact on the future of UK farming for decades to come”.

Tens of thousands of people demonstrated in London last Saturday (19) for a second referendum, others could try to attach plans for a “People’s Vote”.

Meanwhile, the European Commission said on Tuesday that its Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier will head a new team to guide future relations with Britain after it leaves the EU.

Britain was due to leave the union on October 31, but will remain in a transitional relationship for at least 14 months while Brussels and London negotiate a trade deal.

Barnier’s “Task Force for Relations with the United Kingdom” will be a merger of his team that negotiated the withdrawal agreement and the EU’s “Brexit preparedness” team.

“Today’s decision takes effect on 16 November 2019 – regardless of developments in the UK,” the Commission said, with uncertainty hanging round Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s bid to take Britain out of the EU at the end of the month.

Barnier was appointed Brexit negotiator by the outgoing head of the commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, and will be retained by the next president, Ursula von der Leyen, when she takes office.

(Agencies)