Boris Johnson's Brexit bill passes Parliament but lawmakers reject timetable
Thanks for joining us for another day of Brexit.
Here's a recap of what happened tonight:
Boris Johnson failed to fast-track his Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) through Parliament, in a major set back for the UK Prime Minister -- meaning his dream of an October 31st Brexit now seems seriously unlikely.
The Prime Minister did, however, claim a victory in principle -- after the bill passed its "second reading" in the House of Commons. After three years of agonizing Brexit debates, it's the first time lawmakers agreed on a way forward.
Despite warnings from the government that no-deal preparations now must "accelerate," the EU looks set to grant Britain another extension, after European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted that he will recommend the bloc accepts the UK's request.
On Wednesday, lawmakers will debate the Queen's Speech, instead of Brexit, and Johnson will face a barrage of questions during Prime Minister's Questions at 12 p.m. (7 a.m. ET).
President of the European Council Donald Tusk has made clear what many were already expecting: That he will recommend the UK is granted a Brexit extension -- until January 31, 2020.
In a tweet, Tusk said he would do so in a "written procedure," therefore avoiding another costly, time-consuming EU summit. The public move also means Tusk knows the other 27 EU states agree on the subject -- in fact, their ambassadors already committed to the written procedure on Sunday, so it’s unlikely anyone will break ranks.
Nations like France may express skepticism about the merits of an extension -- just as they did last time one was granted -- but the truth is the EU is desperately keen not to be blamed for Britain leaving the bloc without a deal at the end of the month.
“A purely technical extension" to the Brexit negotiations "of a few days" will be considered, a French diplomat told CNN on Tuesday.
Here's the full statement from the diplomat:
“At the end of the week we will see if a purely technical extension of a few days is necessary, so that the British Parliament can finish this parliamentary procedure. But outside these circumstances, an extension intended to buy time or to discuss the agreement again is excluded. We have not changed our position. We have lost so much time, we have reached an agreement and we must now implement it without delay to put an end to the uncertainty that is hurting millions of citizens and businesses.”
France's Secretary of State for European Affairs, Amélie de Montchalin, questioned the need for a Brexit extension in a statement Tuesday night, demanding: "what for? And why?"
“An extension has been asked for: what for? And why? We know that time alone won’t find a solution. Instead a political decision is what is needed. We cannot prolong this situation indefinitely," Montchalin said.
This post has been corrected to reflect that Amélie de Montchalin made the statement.
European Parliament Brexit Coordinator Guy Verhofstadt has reacted to Tuesday night's news out of Britain with a jibe about Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage.
"You’re all thinking: another extension," Verhofstadt tweeted, along with a GIF of the politician, his mouth agape. "I am thinking: another three weeks listening to Farage."
European Council President Donald Tusk has said that he will recommend the EU accepts "the UK request for an extension."
"For this I will propose a written procedure," Tusk said on Twitter.
Written procedure is usually used during urgent matters, when a Council meeting cannot be arranged in "good time."
As explained by the EU, "the only question put in writing to members of the Council will be whether they agree to adopt the act concerned, whether they object or whether they abstain."
Judging by comments made by top European officials in Brussels and Strasbourg this week, the EU is giving plenty of signals that it will grant the UK another Brexit extension.
But, the question is how long?
It’s becoming increasingly clear that deadlines are slipping to get the necessary legislation in order for Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal to become reality and that’s not just in Britain’s House of Commons but also in the EU parliament.
On Monday the latter took the decision not to ratify anything until a final version of the withdrawal agreement clears all its stages in the UK. That will inevitably lead to a few extra weeks’ work on the EU side and it will do all it can to avoid being blamed if things are not ready on October 31.
For this reason a short technical extension, or even an extension until January 31, 2020 -- as per the Prime Minister's request over the weekend, would be enough time to dot the i's and cross the t’s of any outstanding legal hurdles. But if the UK finds itself facing an election -- it might need a lot longer than that.
Crucial to how long it could get will be the balance of power between Germany -- which with a hefty chunk of exports heading for Britain is in favor of a longer extension, and France -- which wants things over and done with sooner.
The House of Commons has now adjourned for the day.
Lawmakers will return tomorrow, where they will debate the Queen's Speech.
House of Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg has told lawmakers that the timetable that was set out for the next two day has been scrapped because of the vote, and that Wednesday and Thursday will now be used to debate the Queen's Speech. The debate had been scheduled for Monday and Tuesday.
Rees-Mogg added that the House will not sit on Friday.