Anti-Brexit protestors in London.

Anti-Brexit protestors in London.

Blow to Boris; British MPs delay decision on Brexit; cheers outside House

Thousands hit London streets in 'final say' Brexit protest

Agency Report | London | 19 October, 2019 | 11:00 PM

British MPs voted to delay a decision on Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Brexit deal, arguing they needed more time to study its contents before an October 31 deadline. Lawmakers backed an amendment which effectively forces Johnson to ask Brussels for an extension until January next year, while they scrutinised the proposed domestic legislation to enforce the deal. Johnson was defiant in responding to the result, despite conceding that the so-called "meaningful vote" on his divorce agreement with Brussels "has been voided of meaning".

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday suffered a setback in Parliament after MPs voted for an amendment to defer a decision on his Brexit deal with the European Union.

The MPs voted through the Letwin amendment to delay Brexit until necessary UK legislation is passed, the BBC reported.

Johnson, who opened the debate soon after Parliament sat for discussion on his Brexit deal saying his deal with the EU can “heal the country”, had to deal with disappointment.

The British Parliament sat for the first time in 37 years on Saturday to take up Johnson’s Brexit deal agreed with the EU.

There were loud cheers at the People’s Vote rally in Parliament Square as the Letwin amendment was passed in the House of Commons.

The latest development implies that Parliament will not vote on Johnson’s deal until next week.

The division list for the Letwin amendment shows 231 Labour MPs voted for it alongside the 10 Democratic Unionist Party MPs.

They were joined by 19 Liberal Democrats, 35 Scottish National Party members, 17 Independents, four Plaid Cymru, five Independent Group for Change and the Green Party MP Caroline Lucas.

On the other hand, 283 Conservative MPs voted against the Letwin amendment along with six Labour MPs.

The six Labour MPs who rebelled to oppose the Letwin amendment were — Kevin Barron (Rother Valley), Ronnie Campbell (Blyth Valley), Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar and Limehouse), Caroline Flint (Don Valley), Kate Hoey (Vauxhall), and John Mann (Bassetlaw).

The Tory MPs left the Commons’ chamber en masse, following the government’s loss over the Letwin amendment. According to a BBC report, just a few of them were left.

Chief spokeswoman for the European Commission, Mina Andreeva, tweeting on the development said: “@EU_Commission takes note of the vote in the House of Commons today on the so-called #Letwin Amendment meaning that the #WithdrawalAgreement itself was not put to vote today. It will be for the UK government to inform us about the next steps as soon as possible.”

Johnson, however, insisted that he will not negotiate a delay with the EU even as the move by the MPs has forced him to ask the EU for another Brexit delay. It’s called the Benn Act, that comes into effect at 11 p.m. (local time) on Saturday night.

Johnson, however, said: “I will not negotiate a delay, nor does the law force me to.”

Responding to this, the House of Commons in its Twitter account has clarified that the law mandates the UK PM to request a Brexit delay.

“The House of Commons has approved the amended motion on the new Brexit deal agreed between the UK Government and the EU,” it said, adding: “The government must ask for an extension of Article 50 under the Benn Act and set out how it intends to proceed.”

The Letwin amendment was proposed by Oliver Letwin, an MP who was booted by Johnson out of the Conservative parliamentary party in September after he supported an anti-no-deal legislation known as the Benn Act.

The amendment, supported by the MPs on Saturday, calls for the House to “withhold support” from the UK PM’s Brexit deal with the EU until all legislations needed to implement the bill are passed by Parliament as well.
Johnson opened the debate saying his deal with the EU can “heal the country”, the BBC reported.

Labour MP Rebecca Long-Baile told the parliamentarians that Johnson’s deal will add costs and bureaucracy for UK businesses. It will also damage workers’ rights, she said.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people were marching through central London on Saturday to demand a “final say” vote on Prime Minister Johnson’s new Brexit deal.

Organisers of the “People’s Vote” campaign said they wanted to ascertain whether new Brexit terms by Johnson were good for the UK.

Protesters were headed to Westminster as MPs debate the new deal in the Commons.

The march, which began at midday on Park Lane, will end in Parliament Square.
Protesters were headed to Westminster as MPs debate the new deal in the Commons.

Ali Lothian, 60, and Mettje Hunneman, 49, travelled from Dundee and Edinburgh, respectively, to join the protest.

Ali told the BBC she felt it was the last chance to show how strongly she felt about having another vote. “It’s a big commitment. It’s a whole weekend. But I regretted not coming last time. This time it was a no-brainer,” she said.

Mettje said that Parliament’s sitting on Saturday made it “a momentous day”. “I would not feel comfortable sitting at home. I’ve got pals who have got a gig tonight but I just couldn’t be there,” Mettje said.

Millie Bishop-Morris, 17, made the journey from Plymouth with her mother and boyfriend. “I think it’s important that young people should be angry about this as well,” she said.

“I think Brexit has gone completely the wrong way. I want to be optimistic, but I’m preparing myself for the worst,” she said.

One group of protesters were seen pulling a float depicting top aide Dominic Cummings using Johnson as a puppet. With “Demonic Cummings” splashed across its forehead, the figure on the float appears to be wearing a Nazi uniform, including an armband that reads Get Brexit Done, and has a Union Jack moustache.

As of Saturday morning, more than 500,000 pounds has been donated to support the protest, and cross-party politicians are calling on people to get involved.

People’s Vote organisers are also asking people to sign a letter to Johnson, EU leaders, MPs, and MEPs, asking them to allow, “the chance to check whether we want to proceed with Brexit”.

In an email to supporters on Saturday morning, Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer said the letter “asks them to honour our shared democratic values, it asks them not to turn away from us now and deny us the chance for a final say”.

“Add your name to the letter now and send a message to the powerful.” (IANS)