Request for Brexit delay: What could happen next?

A view of Britain's House of Commons ahead of a vote on Prime Minister Boris Johnson's renegotiated Brexit deal, on Oct 19, 2019.
A view of Britain's House of Commons ahead of a vote on Prime Minister Boris Johnson's renegotiated Brexit deal, on Oct 19, 2019.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has sent a letter to the European Union requesting a delay to Britain's exit from the bloc, as well as a second note saying he did not want a Brexit extension.

Mr Johnson was required by law to send the first letter, after Parliament voted on Saturday to withhold its approval of his Brexit deal until it has passed legislation to formally ratify the agreement. The following is a guide to what could happen next:


Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg, leader of the House of Commons, said on Saturday that the government had planned to put Mr Johnson's exit deal to a debate and vote today.

But Speaker of the House John Bercow said he would rule whether that would be allowed after several lawmakers said it would break with parliamentary convention that the same question cannot be put twice during the same session. "I have been blindsided on this matter, as others have been," he told Parliament after Mr Rees-Mogg's announcement. "The government is not the arbiter of what is orderly."


Scotland's highest court, the Court of Session, was due to consider today a legal challenge that seeks to force Mr Johnson to comply with the so-called Benn Act - the law which required him to write the extension letter if Parliament had not approved either a deal or a no-deal exit by Oct 19.

Anti-Brexit campaigners said Mr Johnson should face penalties including a fine or even prison if he did not comply. The court has not yet ruled on the matter and was waiting to do so pending developments up to Saturday. But it said this month that government lawyers had given formal legal statements, or averments, that he would abide by the Benn Act and it would be a serious matter if he did not.

Opposition lawmakers said that by writing two letters, Mr Johnson had broken his government's pledge to the court not to frustrate the legislation.


Mr Johnson told Parliament that "next week the government will introduce the legislation needed for us to leave the EU with our new deal on Oct 31". It is widely expected to have its first main stage of debate tomorrow.


Lawmakers will have the opportunity to bring changes to the legislation and opposition Labour spokesmen said yesterday that the party would put forward amendments including on issues such as protecting workers' rights and closing the "trap door" to a no-deal Brexit at the end of a transition period in December next year. Changes proposed by lawmakers are also likely to include the need for a confirmatory referendum on the agreement.


Both the governing Conservatives and main opposition Labour Party say they want a new election, but Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said he will not back any move to hold one until a no-deal Brexit is ruled out.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 21, 2019, with the headline 'Request for Brexit delay: What could happen next?'. Print Edition | Subscribe