Brexit vote setback for Boris Johnson in Parliament
Parliament has emptied and the action appears to be over, at least for the time being.
Brexit watchers are shifting their attention to 11 p.m. local time (6 p.m. ET), the deadline for Boris Johnson to request an extension to Article 50 from the European Union.
He is legally obliged to do so and has previously stated that the government would comply with the law. However, today in the House of Commons he caused huge confusion, after saying that the law didn't "compel" him to "negotiate" a delay to Brexit. Government officials elected not to clear up the messy words of the Prime Minister and as things stand, we are in the dark as to exactly what is going to happen, or if we will even hear what Johnson chooses to do.
Right now, Johnson will be talking with strategists and his closest aides working out what they can do.
They need to not break the law, but they need to not look as though they've gone back on their pledge of not delaying Brexit.
It's a tricky corner to be in and there's a very real chance that as the deadline hits, we will be none the wiser if the Prime Minister has broken the law or not.
Conservative MPs including Andrea Leadsom, Michael Gove and Jacob Rees-Mogg were given police escorts from Parliament due to the presence of protesters at the anti-Brexit rally in central London.
Videos posted on social media show the politicians being escorted by police as protesters waving EU flags shout lines such as “shame on you”.
Sky News journalist Jason Farrell tweeted a video of Michael Gove walking to his car, flanked by several police officers.
Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg was walking from Parliament with his son as protesters surrounded them.
“Thank goodness for our superb police. Just walked home safely from HoC with their protection - why do the so called ‘People’s Vote’ protesters think it’s ok to abuse, intimidate and scream in the face of someone they don’t agree with? So frightening, and so grateful to the police,” Andrea Leadsom tweeted.
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar confirmed that the EU hasn't received a request for a Brexit extension yet. Boris Johnson has until 11 p.m. UK time to make one.
Here's what Varadkar said:
The leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, has indicated that the government would bring forward another vote on Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal on Monday.
"In the light of today’s decision I should like to inform the house that Monday’s business will now be a debate on the motion relation to Section 13 -1B of the European Union Withdrawal Act 2018 and I shall make further business statement on Monday,” he said, making a point of order.
That section of the withdrawal act legislation provides for a vote in the House of Commons on the result of a negotiated agreement with the European Union -- in other words a “meaningful vote.”
Ordinarily, the same provision can’t be voted on twice in the same parliamentary session. That convention scuppered ex-Prime Minister Theresa May’s plans to hold repeated votes on her withdrawal deal some months ago.
The Speaker of the House, John Bercow, said in Parliament that he would rule on the matter on Monday.
Up to one million protesters are marching in London to call for a second Brexit referendum, according to protest organisers.
In a statement, the People’s Vote march estimated the amount of attendees by the number of coaches bringing people to the demonstrations, leaflets distributed publicising the march and online sign-ups to the event which have exceeded previous marches organised by the campaign. Authorities have not given estimates of crowd sizes.
“It is impossible to put an exact figure on the size of this immense crowd because it is an open route spilling out across central London,” a spokesperson for the People’s Vote campaign said in a statement.
“Our assessment is based on professional advice and whatever the exact number, there can be no doubt that this ranks as one of the greatest protests this country has ever seen.”
Government officials have refused to clarify Boris Johnson's words that the Benn act does not "compel" him to "negotiate" a delay to Brexit.
In a huddle with the UK's political press a short while ago, Johnson's spokesperson said that they would not comment any further than the remarks made by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons.
They said that "governments comply with the law," which is a notable move from this government's previous position that it would abide by the law.
When asked directly by CNN if that previous position remained, officials one again declined to comment.
Now that a deal has not been agreed today by the House of Commons, Johnson is legally obliged to send a letter to Brussels requesting that Article 50 be extended before 11 p.m. local time (6 p.m. ET).
The government's spokesperson gave no clarity on this matter and did not say if the letter would be made public.
The spokeswoman for Jean-Claude Juncker, the EU Commission President, has just tweeted this:
The House of Commons' Twitter account has clarified that the law mandates the Prime Minister to request a Brexit delay.
"Today is a historic day for Parliament," says Jeremy Corbyn, adding that MPs "will not be blackmailed by the Prime Minister."
"I invite him to think very carefully about the remarks he just made," Corbyn adds, warning Boris Johnson not to break the law.
The SNP's Ian Blackford follows Corbyn, saying Johnson "thinks he's above the law ... prime minister, you'll find yourself in court."
And Jo Swinson, the Liberal Democrat leader, asks the Speaker of the House to suspend the sitting so Johnson can send the letter to the EU requesting an extension -- a request which is denied.