Brexit: Parliament to sit on a Saturday for first time in 37 years in last-ditch Boris Johnson bid to stop delay

MPs to be recalled on 19 October, even with no agreement to vote on – and told to choose between crashing out or an extension

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Wednesday 09 October 2019 19:11
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Boris Johnson is preparing a dramatic Saturday sitting of parliament later this month in a last-gasp attempt to avoid having to ask the EU for a Brexit delay.

MPs will be recalled on 19 October, even if there is no agreement to vote on – and forced instead to choose between crashing out of the EU 12 days later or extending the Article 50 process.

A Saturday sitting had been expected if a deal was struck at the Brussels summit two days earlier, to rush it through the Commons, but will now be staged “either way”, The Independent has been told.

With a deal now virtually impossible, as talks between the UK and EU are on the brink of collapse, Mr Johnson will instead attempt to shock MPs into sanctioning a no-deal Brexit.

The prime minister could also reveal how he plans to circumvent the Benn Act, which will force him to send a letter to Brussels requesting the extension.

Downing Street has previously suggested he would fight the Act in the courts, but a final, dramatic showdown in parliament now appears to be the favoured option.

Votes could also be staged on whether to stage a Final Say referendum as the best route out of the crisis, or even on revoking Article 50 to cancel Brexit altogether.

Mr Johnson is unlikely to win a vote for no deal – he has yet to win a Commons vote on anything – but defeat would at least strengthen his claim to have been forced into an extension by anti-Brexit MPs.

It would be the first Saturday sitting since Argentina invaded the Falklands Islands in 1982 – and only the third since the Second World War.

The debate will also take place to the backdrop of another huge demonstration demanding a fresh Brexit referendum, expected to attract hundreds of thousands of people.

The ‘Let Us Be Heard’ event will be the fourth demonstration organised jointly by The Independent’s Final Say campaign and the People’s Vote organisation. The last one, in March, attracted up to one million marchers.

Organisers said there was no question of plans for the demonstration being changed because of the Commons sitting, pointing out that permission has already been granted for the march and the rally in Parliament Square.

“It makes the march even more important than ever,” said a spokesman. “It makes the march absolutely pivotal.”

Mr Johnson is expected to meet Leo Varadkar, the Irish premier, on Thursday, but with no realistic hopes of a breakthrough to reach a deal.

In a TV interview on Tuesday evening, Mr Varadkar attacked the UK’s proposals for ‘two borders’ to avoid the need for the backstop, to guarantee no hard border.

“Essentially what the UK has done is repudiated the deal that we negotiated in good faith with prime minister May’s government over two years and have sort of put half of that now back on the table and saying that’s a concession. Of course it isn’t,” he protested.

David Sissoli, the president of the European Parliament, was also downbeat after meeting Mr Johnson in No 10.

“I came here in the confident hope of hearing proposals that could take negotiations forward. However, I must note that there has been no progress,” he said.

“As I explained to Mr Johnson, the parliament will not agree to a deal at any price. We will not agree to a deal that undermines the Good Friday Agreement and the peace process or compromise the integrity of our single market.”

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