Ireland backs Brexit delay after Boris Johnson loses key vote on deal

Andy Wells
Freelance Writer

Irish premier Leo Varadkar has given his support to a three-month Brexit extension after MPs blocked Boris Johnson’s planned timetable for to push through his Brexit deal.

Mr Varadkar, an influential voice among EU leaders, confirmed his support for a flexible delay after EU Council President Donald Tusk recommended an extension.

A statement from the Irish government said: “The Taoiseach confirmed his support for President Tusk’s proposal to grant the request for an extension which was sought by the UK.

“They noted that it would still be possible for the UK to leave before January 31st 2020 if the Withdrawal Agreement has been ratified in advance of that date.”

Yesterday Boris Johnson vowed to seek a general election after Parliament voted against his plan to rush his Brexit deal through.

Labour signalled this morning that they would vote for an election if an extension is granted.

Shadow justice secretary and Corbyn ally Richard Burgon added to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We’re not in the business of leaving the Conservatives in power.”

There was anger in Downing Street after MPs rejected Mr Johnson's plan to push through the legislation approving his deal with the EU in just three days by 322 votes to 308.

The development makes Mr Johnson's promise to take Britain out of the EU by October 31 "do or die" all but impossible to fulfil and means Brexit could be delayed until next year.

Boris Johnson has vowed to seek a general election after MPs blocked the timetable for his Brexit deal (AP)

Brexit ‘in purgatory’

The Leader of the Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg said Brexit was now "in purgatory where it is suffering the pains of those in purgatory”.

Mr Rees-Mogg added it is "very hard to see how it is possible" for the Bill to pass through the Commons and the Lords before October 31.

Tory MP Andrew Bridgen said he thinks the EU will grant a three-month extension and, speaking on BBC's Newsnight, he said: "There's no excuses now for Jeremy Corbyn not to give us that general election.”

Jacob Rees-Mogg said it was now 'difficult' for Brexit to happen by October 31 (AP)

Asked about Mr Johnson's "do-or-die" promises to deliver Brexit on October 31, he said: "Everyone will have seen the way that Boris Johnson has tried to get Brexit across the line on the 31st of October.”

He said that date was ruled out on Tuesday night, adding: "We're going to have to have an extension."

MPs rejected the PM's timetable for the Brexit deal (PA)

Deal delayed

A No 10 source indicated that if the Prime Minister was forced to accept a delay until the new year, he would push for a general election instead.

"On Saturday Parliament asked for a delay until January and today Parliament blew its last chance," the source said.

"If Parliament's delay is agreed by Brussels, then the only way the country can move on is with an election. This Parliament is broken.”

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Following the vote, Mr Johnson said he would "pause" the legislation while he consulted with EU leaders on what should happen next.

Under the terms of the so-called Benn Act, Mr Johnson was forced to write to the EU at the weekend seeking an extension to the end of January after failing to win the support of the Commons at Saturday's special sitting.

The PM had a brief win when MPs voted to back his deal in principle (PA)

A brief win

It was not all bad news for the Government. Just minutes before MPs rejected the PM’s timetable, they voted to back the deal in principle by 329 to 299 on the second reading of the Bill - the first time the Commons has been prepared to support any Brexit deal.

However, Mr Johnson expressed "disappointment" that they had not been prepared to follow it up by agreeing the timetable motion.

He insisted it was still his policy that Britain should leave at Halloween but acknowledged he would have wait to hear what EU leaders said.

Before the vote, Mr Johnson had threatened to pull the whole Bill and go for a general election if the timetable motion was lost but he is yet to outline how he would go about it.

Jeremy Corbyn offered to work with the Government to set out a Brexit timetable (AP)

A Labour offer

Jeremy Corbyn said Labour was prepared to work with the Government to agree "a reasonable timetable" to enable the Commons to debate and scrutinise the legislation properly.

"That would be the sensible way forward, and that's the offer I make on behalf of the opposition tonight," he said.

The Labour leader's offer potentially opens the way for Parliament to approve the Bill before the end of the year.

It also opens up increased opportunities for MPs to seek to amend the legislation in ways the Government would find unacceptable.

Mr Corbyn and Mr Johnson met on Wednesday to discuss a new programme motion for his Brexit deal, Labour confirmed.

Following the meeting, a party spokesman said: “Jeremy Corbyn reiterated Labour’s offer to the Prime Minister to agree a reasonable timetable to debate, scrutinise and amend the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, and restated that Labour will support a general election when the threat of a no-deal crashout is off the table.”

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