MPs have inflicted a humiliating defeat on Boris Johnson by passing a backbench amendment withholding their support from his Brexit deal.
Instead of backing Johnson’s agreement in a “meaningful vote”, MPs passed an amendment tabled by a cross-party group of MPs led by Oliver Letwin by 322 votes to 306 – a majority of 16.
The prime minister said he was not “daunted or dismayed” by the defeat, and would press ahead with tabling Brexit legislation next week. MPs are likely to take the opportunity to table a string of amendments, including on trying to force a second referendum.
The move by cross-party MPs was aimed at forcing Johnson to comply with the terms of the Benn act, which obliges him to write to the EU to request a Brexit delay, if he had not won approval for his deal by 11pm.
As to that letter to the EU requesting a delay? Johnson is doing the absolute minimum as defined by law, resusing to sign the letter asking for an extension, and signing an accompanying letter asking for an extension not to be granted:
Boris Johnson has sent an unsigned letter to European council president Donald Tusk requesting a further Brexit delay beyond 31 October – accompanied by a signed one arguing against it.
The prime minister sent three letters: an unsigned photocopy of the request he was obliged to send under the Benn Act, an explanatory letter from the UK’s ambassador to the EU and a personal letter explaining why Downing Street did not want an extension.
In the signed message, he warned of the “corrosive impact” of a long delay, and that “a further extension would damage the interests of the UK and our EU partners, and the relationship between us”. He said Parliament had “missed the opportunity to inject momentum into the ratification process” yet remained confident Brexit legislation would be passed by 31 October.
The move sparked concerns the prime minister could face fresh court action. One former Tory cabinet minister said: “This is clearly against the spirit of the Benn Act and is not consistent with the assurances that were given by Downing Street to the Scottish courts about applying for an extension. It will also put government law officers in a very uncomfortable position.”
After the extension request was sent, Jeremy Corbyn accused Johnson of “petulant posturing and bluster” and said “his damaging deal was defeated today.”
“Petulant posturing and bluster,” is pretty much the defining feature of BoJo.
I’m expecting a crash-out.