Boris Johnson threatens to pull Brexit bill and push for general election

  • Boris Johnson threatens to pull Brexit Bill if MPs vote against his plans

  • Two crucial votes today will decide whether PM can deliver ‘do or die’ pledge

  • MPs asked to back PM’s accelerated timetable to hurry through Brexit legislation

  • Donald Tusk tells MPs Brexit extension ‘still possible’ ahead of Commons showdown

  • EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker says Brexit deadlock has ‘pained’ him

Boris Johnson will pull his Brexit bill if MPs do not back the timetable to get it through Parliament.

The prime minister said the government would instead push for a general election if the programme was rejected and the EU confirmed a further delay past the October 31 deadline.

The Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) was published on Monday night and MPs have started debating it in the Commons, ahead of a vote at about 7pm on Tuesday on the proposed timetable.

Time is running out for the government to force through legislation before the deadline date of October 31.

The bill is being debated a day after Commons speaker John Bercow prevented MPs from having a so-called “meaningful vote” on Mr Johnson’s deal, which was subsequently published in full, spanning 110 pages.

Mr Johnson said: “I will in no way allow months more of this.

Prime minister Boris Johnson opens the debate on his Brexit bill in the House of Commons on Tuesday (Picture: Reuters)

“If Parliament refuses to allow Brexit to happen and instead… decides to delay everything until January or possibly longer in no circumstances can the government continue with this.

“And with great regret I must say that the bill will have to be pulled and we will have to go forward to a general election and I will argue at that election let’s get Brexit done.”

He told the Commons: "If we do this deal, if we pass this deal and the legislation that enables it, we can turn the page and allow this country and this Parliament to begin to heal and unite."

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn criticised the bill, saying: ”Page after page of what amounts to nothing less than a charter for deregulation and a race to the bottom.

"A deal and a Bill that fails to protect our rights and our natural world, fails to protect jobs and the economy, fails to protect every region and every nation in the United Kingdom.”

John McDonnell tweeted: “Johnson threatening a general election because Parliament might want a few more days to scrutinise his Withdrawal Bill. Pathetic. What has he got to hide??”

‘Waste of energy’

The developments came as outgoing European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker described the Brexit process as a “waste of time and energy”.

He told the European parliament that it has "pained" him to spend so much time dealing with Brexit, calling it "a waste of time and a waste of energy".

But European Council president Donald Tusk has reassured MPs that a Brexit extension is still on the table, suggesting another extension to Article 50 could be granted as he consults EU leaders over the requested delay.

“It is obvious that the result of these consultations will very much depend on what the British Parliament decides, or doesn’t decide,” he said in a speech at the council on Tuesday.

“We should be ready for every scenario. But one thing must be clear: as I said to Prime Minister Johnson on Saturday, a no-deal Brexit will never be our decision.”

Speaker John Bercow speaking in the House of Commons in London after he rejected a government bid to hold a "meaningful vote" on Boris Johnson's Brexit deal (Picture: PA/Getty)

What’s happening today?

Ministers have insisted they are confident they have the numbers to get the bill through the Commons, despite their defeat in a special sitting of the house on Saturday.

However, they face a fierce parliamentary struggle after announcing plans to fast-track it through the lower house in three days, potentially paving the way for the Lords to consider it over the weekend.

They will need MPs to approve a "programme motion" setting out the timetable for its passage through the Commons, setting up a crunch vote on Tuesday evening.

Many MPs are deeply unhappy that there is so little time for detailed scrutiny of a such an important Bill, which runs to 110 pages with another 124 pages of explanatory notes.

However, Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg warned on Monday that the programme motion was essential if they were to meet the Halloween deadline.

"People who do not vote for the programme motion will not be voting for Brexit on October 31," he said.

The prime minister also received support from former Tory leader William Hague, who said it was "time to make a clear decision on a deal that has been exhaustively negotiated".

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Failure to get the motion through would open up the prospect that Mr Johnson will be forced to accept another lengthy delay to Britain's departure - something he has vowed not to do.

The first vote on Tuesday will be on the bill's "in principle" second reading.

Despite the opposition of the DUP over arrangements for Northern Ireland, ministers believe they have the support of pro-Leave Labour rebels and former Tory MPs now sitting as independents who would rather leave with Mr Johnson's deal than no deal at all.

Pro and anti-Brexit demonstrators protest outside of the Houses of Parliament (Picture: AFP/Getty)

If they get through the second reading, the government will hope it gives the momentum to carry through the programme motion as well.

If that passes, under the proposed timetable, the bill would then move to the committee stage - which will continue on into Wednesday - when MPs will have the opportunity to put down amendments.

These are expected to include attempts to keep the UK more closely aligned with the EU through a customs union and to stage a second referendum.

‘Get Brexit done’

Both are bitterly opposed by the government, raising the possibility that it could pull the bill altogether if either gets through.

Ahead of the debate, Mr Johnson called on MPs to get behind the agreement, warning that the public did not want any further delay.

"We have negotiated a new deal so that we can leave without disruption and provide a framework for a new relationship based on free trade and friendly co-operation," he said in a statement. "We are leaving the European Union but we will always be European.

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