Brexit Briefing: How the next two days might play out
James Blitz’s Brexit Briefing newsletter is hot off the (digital) press:
The next four days are (obviously!) going to be critical for Brexit. All the signs are that MPs are coming round to backing Boris Johnson’s deal. But Commons procedure is complex and surprises are likely.
Here’s a guide to how the next few days at Westminster might play out.
John Bercow, Commons Speaker, will make a statement at 3.30pm today on whether he will allow a meaningful vote on the Johnson deal to be held this evening. The expectation is he will not allow it for technical reasons (which Hannah White of the Institute for Government explains here). However, Mr Bercow has proved unpredictable.
Even if the Speaker allows the meaningful vote, Downing Street has made clear it will pull it if there are amendments attached that render it “meaningless”. So that reduces the chance of a big vote tonight even further.
The government will begin the debate on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill. This is the mammoth piece of legislation (to be published tonight) that brings the Johnson deal into UK law.
There are two key votes here.
First, there will be the first big vote on the WAB (called “second reading”). Assuming there is no meaningful vote on Monday night, this becomes the landmark vote to decide whether the Commons backs Mr Johnson’s deal. Ministers are increasingly confident of victory.
Downing Street’s understanding is that the “second reading” motion cannot be amended or qualified in any way so it’s a straight yes/no vote. It will be hugely significant.
If it passes, the Commons will then immediately vote on a programme motion that will state that the WAB must complete its Commons stages by Friday so it can be on the statute book by October 31 — the day Mr Johnson has pledged to take the UK out of the EU. If this fails to be passed, ministers fear that debate will drag on, delaying Brexit until well into next year.