The PM is now legally obliged to apply for an extension. But his deal could still squeak through in the coming daysby Steve Peers / October 19, 2019 / Leave a comment
Today was meant to be the final resolution of the Brexit saga—or rather this phase of it (talks on the future relationship with the EU are the inevitable next step after Brexit day). Instead, the decisive vote on Boris Johnson’s revised withdrawal agreement was forestalled, with MPs instead voting to support Oliver Letwin’s amendment which deferred a vote for now. What happens next?
First and foremost, the failure to vote for a withdrawal agreement by 19th October triggers the obligation under the Benn Act (discussed further here) for the prime minister to ask the EU for a further three month extension of UK membership. We’ll see soon enough if the prime minister lives up to this legal obligation at all, or whether he does so in a way (such as sending a contradictory letter) that frustrates his legal obligations under the Act.
What if the PM does not comply with the Act? The Court of Appeal ruled on Friday in England that it would not make an order in advance of the 19th, instead waiting to see what the prime minister would do. We will soon enough know what he does. Similarly, an appeal court in Scotland suspended proceedings aimed at enforcing the Benn Act prior to the 19th, but is ready to resume them on Monday.
It’s also possible that the EU does not grant a further extension, or grants one for a different period. (The Benn Act requires the PM to accept an extension, although if it’s for a period of other than three months, parliament could vote to turn it down). The EU might think it prudent to wait for a few days closer to the deadline of 31st October to see what happens in the UK.
The government announced plans to table another motion approving the revised withdrawal agreement on Monday. However, the speaker might rule this out of order—since the same motion cannot be put twice in the same parliamentary session. If he does allow a vote on the motion, the proponents of delay might try to amend it again. But if parliament does vote to approve the deal, the Benn Act says that the PM may withdraw or amend the request for an extension.
The government plans to table a bill to implement the withdrawal agreement shortly.…