British Prime Minister Boris Johnson "paused" the Withdrawal Agreement Bill i.e. the bill for leaving the European Union (EU) after MPs voted against fast-tracking his Brexit deal through parliament in time for next week’s 31 October deadline. The bill had earlier cleared the first parliamentary hurdle, with MPs backing it 329 votes to 299. It effectively meant his Brexit deal was accepted for debate and amemdments paving way for the withdrawal agreement to become law. However, the MPs then voted 322 to 308 against the sped-up timetable for the bill. The motion would have seen the deal through by the end of the week.
The passage of the withdrawal agreement bill through parliament was automatically paused as a result of the defeat, with the Speaker, John Bercow, saying it was officially “in limbo”.
After the vote, Johnson said he would speak to EU leaders and urge them not to agree to a prolonged Brexit extension. However, the European council president, Donald Tusk, suggested almost immediately that he would recommend the EU27 accede to the UK’s request for a three-month delay.
"Following Prime Minister Boris Johnson's decision to pause the process of ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement, and in order to avoid a no-deal Brexit, I will recommend the EU27 accept the UK request for an extension," he tweeted.
"For this I will propose a written procedure," he said, which means that the 27 other member state leaders would not have to convene an emergency summit.
That request was set out in the letter reluctantly penned by the prime minister at the weekend in compliance with the backbench-led Benn act – despite his previous insistence that he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than countenance a delay.
Earlier on Tuesday, Johnson had threatened to pull the bill and seek a general election instead of delaying Brexit beyond the October 31 deadline. After publishing the EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill, or the so-called EU divorce bill, on Monday night, Johnson opened it up for debate by MPs in the House of Commons on Tuesday afternoon with plans to hold a vote on a sped-up timetable for its passage by the end of the week.
While Opposition MPs accused him of trying to dash through a 110-page legislation without proper scrutiny, Johnson threatened to remove the Bill entirely if his timetable for its passage is rejected and revert to demanding a General Election instead.
If the UK government fails in its last-ditch attempt to get the new Brexit bill through Parliament in time, the default legal position remains for Britain to crash-out of the economic bloc without a deal on October 31.
(With Agency Inputs)