Boris Johnson will launch a last-ditch attempt to deliver on his pledge to “get Brexit done” by October 31 today.
The prime minister, who had his Brexit deal rebuffed by MPs on Saturday, will take the high risk strategy of reintroducing the deal in the form of legislation, known as the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB), this afternoon.
The Bill is open to being amended in the Commons and a number of MPs have already indicated their intention to add provision for a second referendum, something the UK Government have suggested would result in the legislation being pulled entirely.
“Any changes to the legislation that steps too far away from what was agreed in the Withdrawal Agreement and the political declaration does bring into question ratification”, a Downing Street source said yesterday.
If the WAB is defeated or pulled then all eyes will turn to the European Union, where leaders will decide on whether or not to grant another delay to the Brexit date.
Today’s Commons showdown comes after another day of high drama in Westminster in which Speaker John Bercow blocked the Government’s attempt to hold another straightforward yes/no vote on the deal.
Mr Bercow said MPs had raised “disquiet and consternation” over the government’s move – which he said would be “repetitive and disorderly”.
He added: “This matter was decided fewer than 49 hours ago. After more than three hours of debate, the House voted by 322 to 306 for Sir Oliver Letwin’s amendment which stated that, and I quote, ‘this House has considered the matter but withholds approval unless and until implementing legislation is passed’.
“Today’s circumstances are in substance the same as Saturday’s circumstances. My ruling is therefore that the motion will not be debated today, as it would be repetitive and disorderly to do so.”
The prime minister’s official spokesman accused Mr Bercow of denying the Government “the chance to deliver on the will of the British people.”
He added: “The public want Brexit done, the government is determined to pass the prime minister’s new deal and get us out of the EU on October 31.”
Ahead of the debate on the WAB today, the government was criticised for not publishing relevant economic analysis of Mr Johnson’s deal.
Chancellor Sajid Javid, in response to a letter demanding the publication of analysis, said it would be provided “at appropriate points”.
He added: “The trust in democracy and bringing an end to the division that has characterised this debate over the past three years, is something that cannot be measured solely through spreadsheets or impact assessments, important though they are.
“Respecting the referendum and closing this chapter so we can focus on delivering growth and the public services people deserve, is the right thing to do for our country.”
The SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford said the comments were “unacceptable” and accused Mr Johnson of trying to “railroad” his deal through parliament.
He said: “This deal is worse than Theresa May’s deal and would be devastating for Scotland. The UK Government has also admitted it has carried out no impact assessment on the deal. That is simply unacceptable.
“SNP MPs will not support the UK Government’s programme motion which will attempt to bulldoze through Parliament the toxic Brexit Bill – without a shred of scrutiny and would give the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly little more than a day to consider the bill.”
He added: “Boris Johnson must secure a meaningful extension to the Brexit deadline from the EU so that full scrutiny of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill can take place.”
Ministers were still insisting last night that they do have sufficient support among MPs to get the WAB passed so the UK can depart by the current October 31 deadline.
But, with no Commons majority, Mr Johnson faces a major battle to achieve his pledge to lead the country out of the bloc on that date.