Boris Johnson puts his Brexit plans on hold after hammer blow Commons defeat

Boris Johnson has been forced to put his plans to leave the EU on October 31 on ice after suffering another humiliating Commons defeat.

MPs voted by 322 to 308 to reject his plan to ram legislation approving his Brexit deal through the Commons in just three days.

The Prime Minister told MPs he would now "pause" the Withdrawal Agreement Bill until the EU takes a decision on whether to grant another Brexit delay.

POLITICS Brexit
(PA Graphics)

However the vote would appear to put paid to his hope of leaving with a deal at the end of the month in nine days' time.

Just minutes earlier MPs 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.

Mr Johnson, who had pledged to take Britain out of the EU by the Halloween deadline "do or die", told the House he would now consult with other 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 after failing to win the support of the Commons at Saturday's special sitting.

He told MPs: "I will speak to EU member states about their intentions. Until they have reached a decision we will pause this legislation."

He added: "Let me be clear. Our policy remains that we should not delay, that we should leave the EU on October 31 and that is what I will say to the EU and I will report back to the House.

"And one way or another we will leave the EU with this deal, to which this House has just given its assent."

The results mean that Mr Johnson has now won just two of 12 votes in Parliament since he became Prime Minister in July.

Speaker John Bercow said the programme motion vote meant the Bill was now considered to be "in limbo" and will not proceed through the Commons this week as planned.

House of Commons vote: EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill
(PA Graphics)

The Government went down to a defeat despite a threat by Mr Johnson to pull the whole Bill and go for a general election if the timetable motion was lost and MPs tried to "delay everything until January or even longer".

Jeremy Corbyn said that 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, offering Mr Johnson the possibility of taking Britain out with a deal.

But it would mean he would have to accept another extension – something he said he would rather "die in a ditch" than do.

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

There were already plans to attach a second referendum and a customs union to the Bill – which ministers were determined to resist.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar welcomed MPs backing for the deal.

He said: "It's welcome that the House of Commons voted by a clear majority in favour of legislation needed to enact Withdrawal Agreement. We will now await further developments from London and Brussels about next steps including timetable for the legislation and the need for an extension."

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