Brexit: Boris Johnson’s deal demands proper scrutiny – leader comment

Boris Johnson is still pushing to 'get Brexit done' (Picture: Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament/AFP via Getty Images)
Boris Johnson is still pushing to 'get Brexit done' (Picture: Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament/AFP via Getty Images)
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In a historic moment, MPs vote in favour of Boris Johnson’s deal but also reject UK Government’s attempt to railroad through the necessary legislation.

For some supporters of Brexit, it was an emotional event. Finally, MPs had actually voted in favour of a course of action for the first time in this long debate.

Boris Johnson’s deal passed to the next stage of the parliamentary process with a reasonably healthy majority of 329 votes to 299, coincidentally a split of 52 to 48 per cent, the same as the EU referendum result. Boris Johnson declared it was a “joyful” moment.

However, any sense of triumph on the Government benches was short-lived as MPs ruled out an attempt to railroad through the legislation in a matter of days to enable the UK to leave the EU by 31 October – a week tomorrow.

It was always a nonsense that, more than three years after the referendum, MPs were to be given less than three days to consider a Bill that some have likened to the rewiring of the UK as a nation.

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Our elected representatives may have wasted a huge amount of time and delayed the final decision but, if Brexit is now to happen, they need to make sure they get this right, that no wires are crossed and there will be no unexpected shocks.

It is a nonsense to suggest otherwise. Even the most ardent of Brexiteers should see the basic sense of scrutinising this legislation properly. Johnson sought to use the scare tactics that appear to have been working well for him, saying the UK Government would now “accelerate” preparations for a no-deal outcome, but also added he would speak to the EU.

If he leads this country into a no-deal Brexit for the sake of a few days’ delay, he will never be forgiven. It would be an extraordinary act of folly that could ruin this country’s economy and which does not have majority support among MPs or in the country.

Oddly, Johnson said he would now pause progress of the bill, a decision which Ken Clarke, the Father of the House, sensibly invited him to reconsider. MPs might as well get on with their scrutiny of the Bill. The Government clearly fears wrecking amendments, but surely the sooner they know whether these are going to be brought and whether they succeed, the better for all concerned.

If the Government cannot get its Bill through, a general election seems the most likely outcome, but that would be an odd prism through which to make this decision, a second referendum would be a much better way to settle this, once and for all.