Brexit: Rebel Bill published to stop no-deal exit if Boris Johnson fails to strike agreement by 19 October

Legislation - expected to be rushed through the Commons in a single day on Wednesday - would require prime minister to seek three-month extension to Article 50, until 31 January

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Monday 02 September 2019 18:58
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Boris Johnson would be forced to delay Brexit if he has failed to strike a fresh deal by 19 October, under a rebel Bill aimed at blocking a crash-out from the EU.

The legislation – expected to be rushed through the Commons in a single day on Wednesday – would then require the prime minister to ask the EU for a three-month extension to Article 50, until 31 January.

If passed, it would kick in the day after a crucial EU summit on 17-18 October – earlier than expected, but the event which Mr Johnson himself as earmarked as the last hope for a deal.

It was published as No 10 stoked growing expectation of an October general election if MPs succeed in seizing control of Commons business, in a vote on Tuesday – in order to pass the Bill a day later.

Heavyweight Tories, including Philip Hammond, the sacked former chancellor, and David Gauke, the ex-justice secretary, are among the Bill’s backers.

Up to 20 Conservative MPs are expected to join the revolt – sufficient to deliver victory – defying Mr Johnson’s threat to expel them from the party if they do.

Significantly, if the EU proposed an extension to a date different to 31 January, the prime minister would be forced to accept that extension within two days, unless the House of Commons rejected it.

Supporters of the Bill argued it still provided the government with “sufficient time to carry out a genuine and sincere negotiation”.

It would also, before the current 31 October deadline, “provide time during which parliament must seek to build a consensus on the way forward”, they said.

Keir Starmer, Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary, said: “This Bill will stop Boris Johnson forcing through a reckless and damaging no-deal Brexit on 31 October.

"This week could be parliament’s last chance to stop a no-deal Brexit. MPs must act in the national interest and support this Bill.”

Moments later, Mr Johnson gave his response in Downing Street, claiming it would “chop the legs” out from under the UK's position in trying to negotiate a fresh deal with the EU.

He said: “I say, to show our friends in Brussels that we are united in our purpose, MPs should vote with the Government against Corbyn's pointless delay.

“I want everybody to know there are no circumstances in which I will ask Brussels to delay. We are leaving on 31 October, no ifs or buts.”

The so-called rebel alliance will aim to take control of the Commons order paper from 3pm on Wednesday, to pass a Bill just 2 pages long, with 5 clauses, and 1 schedule.

If it can clear all its Commons stages on Wednesday, it will leave Thursday – and possibly Friday and through the weekend – for a rockier path through the Lords.

The aim is for the bill to have gained royal assent by Sunday night to be assured the law is in place before Mr Johnson prorogues parliament as early as Monday.

Mr Johnson can also avoid the Bill’s requirements in the highly-unlikely event that MPs vote for a crash-out Brexit in October.

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