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October 23, 2019

Johnson says he will pull Brexit deal if MPs don’t back his plans

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P
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October 23, 2019

LONDON: Boris Johnson has threatened to pull his Brexit deal and call for an early general election if MPs do not vote for his plans as he kicked off a Commons showdown.

The Prime Minister told the Commons that he would “in no way allow months more of this” as he called on MPs to work “night and day” to scrutinise his plans and avoid a no-deal departure.

“If Parliament refuses to allow Brexit to happen, and instead gets its way and decides to delay everything until January or possibly longer, in no circumstances can the government continue with this,” he said.

“And with great regret I must say that the Bill will have to be pulled and we will have to go forward to a general election.” The threat was dismissed as “childish blackmail” by Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesman Tom Brake.

“MPs shouldn’t be bullied into voting in favour of this ridiculously short timetable,” he added. Johnson also warned that failure to back his plans would be “closing the path to leaving with a deal on October 31 and opening the path to a no-deal in nine days time”.

Urging MPs to vote for the programme motion, he said: “Doing anything else would, I am afraid, mean this House abdicating its responsibilities and handing over to the EU Council what happens next.”

A programme motion is thought to have only been defeated once before — on House of Lords reform in 2012 — and the Bill was then scrapped. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he would vote against both aspects and accused the Prime Minister of “trying to blindside” Parliament with a “disgraceful attempt to dodge accountability, scrutiny, and any kind of proper debate”.

But there was a sign the Prime Minister’s threat may be effective when Sir Oliver Letwin, an exiled Tory who has been key in efforts to thwart a no-deal, said he was “seriously worried” the Bill would be pulled if the timetable was voted down.

“Surely best for all of us who regard this deal as the least of the evils to vote for the programme motion, whatever we really think of it,” he added.Labour’s chief whip Nicholas Brown offered an olive branch to Johnson by telling him he was “available at any point to seek a consensus with you on a programme motion that would command the support of all sides of the House”.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, he added: “No parliamentarian seeking to properly scrutinise and improve such a vital piece of legislation could agree to support the government’s proposed programme motion.”

Donald Tusk gave some reassurance to MPs that a requested extension to Article 50 would be treated with “all seriousness” as he consults with EU leaders who could block the move.

“It is obvious that the result of these consultations will very much depend on what the British Parliament decides, or doesn’t decide,” the European Council president said.“We should be ready for every scenario. But one thing must be clear: as I said to Prime Minister Johnson on Saturday, a no-deal Brexit will never be our decision.”

The new Brexit deal must also win backing from the European Parliament, but its Brexit co-ordinator, Guy Verhofstadt, said problems affecting EU nationals in the UK must first be solved to prevent “another Windrush scandal”.

As his time as European Commission president comes to a close, Jean-Claude Juncker said it has “pained” him to spend so much time dealing with Brexit, which he described as “a waste of time and a waste of energy”.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier also told the European Parliament that “this is the only possible agreement”, signalling it is the last deal any Prime Minister can broker.

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