MPs passed amendment to delay the decisive Brexit vote

Johnson says he will press ahead with legislation next week, but is obliged to request extension

The House of Commons has dealt Boris Johnson a heavy blow by passing a measure that defers the pivotal vote on his Brexit plans. Parliament voted 322 to 306 in favor of an amendment put forward by Oliver Letwin, a former Conservative cabinet minister. According to legislation passed earlier, the vote means Johnson is obliged to write to the European Union seeking a delay beyond Britain’s scheduled departure date of 31 October. 

But Johnson has repeatedly vowed he will not do this and on Saturday he stuck to that line.

“I will not negotiate a delay with the EU and neither does the law compel me to do so,” Johnson told parliament.

“I will tell our friends and colleagues in the EU exactly what I have told everyone else in the last 88 days that I have served as prime minister: that further delay would be bad for this country, bad for the European Union and bad for democracy.”

The vote however means the government will not hold a vote on its Brexit deal on Saturday as planned. Johnson said he would put it to a vote on Tuesday.

Letwin’s amendment proposed that a decision on whether to back a Brexit deal be deferred until all the legislation needed to implement it has been passed through parliament.

Even though Johnson believes this can be achieved by 31 October, others think it would need a short ‘technical’ delay in Britain’s departure from the EU.

A law passed by Johnson’s opponents obliges him to ask the EU for a Brexit delay until 31 January 2020 if he could not secure approval for his deal by the end of Saturday.

Thousands of demonstrators waving EU flags and pro-EU banners to stop Brexit have rammed into the streets now the march in favour of a second referendum has begun its slow progress from Marble Arch towards Parliament Square in central London. Police anticipate close to a million people on the streets. The national anthem is booming out on the loudspeakers, with very few joining in.
Oliver Letwin, whose amendment has thrown the government's plan for a 'meaningful vote' into uncertainty, has told the Commons it exists as an insurance policy against a no-deal exit on 31 October if future withdrawal legislation fails.

The amendment would withhold formal parliamentary approval for Johnson’s new Brexit deal, forcing the prime minister to seek an extension to the Article 50 exit process.

Sir Oliver said he understands the government's logic to try to push any waverers into 'a 'deal or no deal' choice, but that "I do not believe it is responsible to put the nation at risk by making that threat."

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