Boris Johnson's Brexit bill passes Parliament but lawmakers reject timetable

By Bianca Britton and Rob Picheta, CNN

Updated 1153 GMT (1953 HKT) October 23, 2019
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6:35 a.m. ET, October 22, 2019

Amendment to automatically extend transition period is tabled

Much of the debate over Boris Johnson's Brexit bill has focused on what happens at the end of the transition period -- the period running to December 2020 in which much of the status quo will remain in place.

It was designed to give the UK and the EU time to strike a trade deal and other agreements, but such pacts take years to negotiate and it's unlikely one can be reached so quickly.

That's why opposition MPs have been warning that the current deal could lead to, in essence, a no-deal Brexit in 14 months' time.

So Nick Boles, a leader in the ex-Tory, anti-no-deal brigade, has just announced he's tabled an amendment for debate later today seeking to force a government to automatically extend the transition period if it can't reach a deal in the intervening time (unless Parliament votes to the contrary).

The amendment follows hours of reported negotiations between Boles and his fellow independents and Downing Street.

And while it could mean those independents support Johnson's timetable, it could cost him favor with the hardline Tories on the other side who are keen to keep a no-deal split on the table in 2020 and beyond.

5:52 a.m. ET, October 22, 2019

Donald Tusk says EU will treat extension request with "seriousness"

Donald Tusk has tweeted after speaking in the European Parliament this morning.

The EU Council President said he has "no doubt that we should treat the British request" for a three-month Brexit extension "in all seriousness."

Tusk had previously confirmed that Johnson's efforts to water down his own request made no difference. The Prime Minister sent an unsigned photocopy of the letter alongside another suggesting the EU disregard it, but it doesn't change the fact that he formally requested a Brexit extension.

5:31 a.m. ET, October 22, 2019

There are two key votes in Parliament on Tuesday


Boris Johnson's push to get his Brexit plan through Parliament begins in a couple of hours.

The first hurdle is the second reading of Johnson's Brexit deal. A debate will begin at 12:30 p.m. (7:30 a.m. ET) and the vote will take place around 7 p.m. (2 p.m. ET) Its results will show whether the Commons supports Johnson's Brexit plan in principle, but it won't make Brexit a done deal by any stretch. You can look at CNN's analysis of whether Johnson has the votes below, but it looks like the bill will scrape through.

Immediately afterwards (should Johnson win that vote), there's another vote on the government's planned timetable for the rest of the week -- and that's where it could get harder for Downing Street.

The government wants to ram its Brexit bill through all of its stages in the House of Commons this week, and push it on to the House of Lords for approval as quickly as possible. By contrast, the last big EU upheaval, the Lisbon Treaty, was pored over in 25 sittings over five months.

It's possible that the government could lose this vote. If it does, the whole timetable would be thrown into chaos and Johnson may be forced to take advantage of the extension to the Brexit process that he reluctantly requested from EU on Sunday.

Or, the Prime Minister could abandon the legislation altogether and seek a general election in an effort to resolve the mess.

4:46 a.m. ET, October 22, 2019

Does Boris Johnson have the votes for his Brexit deal?

By CNN's Matt Wells in London

We still don't know the answer to this question, because Speaker John Bercow blocked a vote on the UK Prime Minister's Brexit deal on Monday.

But we will get a sense of the level of support for the deal in Parliament today, when the first vote is held on the detailed legislation that turns it into law.

That vote will be on what is confusingly known as the bill's second reading. So which way will it go? CNN has attempted to estimate the level of support for Johnson's deal, based on information on how lawmakers voted on Saturday, their public statements, and other reports in other credible media sources.

For the deal: Johnson can count on the support of the 287 voting Conservative lawmakers, including 28 hardline Brexiteers who never voted for his predecessor's deal. He also has the support of 20 independent Conservatives, at least nine Labour MPs, and at least four independents -- including one, John Woodcock, who appears to have changed his mind. That takes him to 320 -- but in any vote, two MPs from this bloc would be nominated as tellers (counters of the votes), so that means he has 318 actual votes behind him.

Against the deal: Opposing Johnson are 231 Labour MPs, 35 members of the Scottish National Party, 19 Liberal Democrats, 10 Democratic Unionist Party MPs, five members of The Independent Group, 4 Welsh nationalists, three independent Conservatives and one Green MP. Another seven independent MPs would be likely to vote against the deal. That's a total of 315. Remove two tellers and you get a final tally of 313.

Three Labour MPs and one independent Northern Ireland unionist remain uncommitted, but are leaning towards supporting the deal.

4:14 a.m. ET, October 22, 2019

Government hopes to pass Brexit bill in just three days

Jacob Rees-Mogg in the House of Commons Monday. Parliament TV
Jacob Rees-Mogg in the House of Commons Monday. Parliament TV

Leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, told lawmakers that the government hopes all Brexit legislation will be wrapped up by Thursday.

By British parliamentary standards, that's breakneck speed.

The legislation, which was published on Monday night, is more than 100 pages long and fiendishly complicated.

Three days is not a great deal of time at all to consider such complex legislation, and we can be sure that some lawmakers opposed to Brexit will try and frustrate its progress.

The government wants to get everything done by October 31, so it can stick to Boris Johnson's promise to get Brexit done by that date, do or die. But the government has already been forced by law to ask for an extension to the Brexit process until January 31 – and it may find out that it will need some of that time, after all.

See what's planned, below:

4:12 a.m. ET, October 22, 2019

Read the Brexit bill in all its glory

The European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill was published Monday night in all its glory, totalling 110 pages, on Parliament's website. It's the piece of legislation that will enact Prime Minister Boris Johnson's deal.

Some lawmakers have argued that there is insufficient time to scrutinize the bill, after the government announced it hopes to wrap everything up by Thursday.

You can read the full text here, where it's been published online:

4:31 a.m. ET, October 22, 2019

It's crunch time for Brexit (no, we really mean it this time)

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's vision for Brexit will see its first big parliamentary test today, when lawmakers vote on his new Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) in what's confusingly called the "second reading."

Crunch day for the Prime Minister's Brexit plan was delayed yet again on Monday, after the Speaker of the House of Commons refused the government's request to hold a meaningful vote on it.

It was the second time in three days that Johnson's plans were scuppered.

A historic sitting of Parliament soured Saturday after lawmakers deferred a decision on Johnson's deal, making it conditional on the associated legislation passing all its stages in the UK Parliament.

It was a stunning blow for the Prime Minister, who was riding high after negotiating a new deal with the EU that few thought he could pull off.

But Brexit isn't over yet. On Tuesday, Britain will -- for the first time -- get a feeling for what level of support Johnson's bill has in Parliament.

Read more about where things stand, here:

Related Coverage: It's another crunch week for Brexit (no, we really mean it this time)