Brexit: What happens next? Likely outcomes from a crunch week in Parliament

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MPs decided over the weekend to withhold approval of Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal until after the necessary legislation, known as the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, is passed.

The passing of Sir Oliver Letwin’s carefully worded amendment, which forced the Prime Minister to ask the EU for an extension, rendered the first Saturday sitting in Parliament for nearly 40 years rather anti-climactic.

A girl sits on her father's shoulders as protesters march towards Parliament Square

A girl sits on her father's shoulders as protesters march towards Parliament Square

But it ushers in yet another critical week in the Brexit saga, which could see Mr Johnson in a race against time to force his deal over the line, or it could mean more weeks or even months of the debate continuing.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon calls on EU to extend Brexit long enough for second referendum

Here’s a look at what might happen over the next few days.

Will MPs vote again on the PM’s deal?

Boris Johnson in the House of Commons

Boris Johnson in the House of Commons

Not likely. Downing Street said it would try once again to have a “meaningful vote” on its Brexit deal by presenting the motion to MPs later today. Number 10 is quietly confident it has the numbers to pass the deal and is eager to demonstrate to Brussels that it does not need an extension beyond 31 October.

But Speaker John Bercow is widely expected to deny the Government the chance to put its deal before the House again, as he will see it as putting the same question to the Commons for a second time. It is something he did back in March to Theresa May’s deal and is likely to do so again.

What does that mean for the legislation?

The Government will still have to present the Withdrawal Agreement Bill to the Commons if it wants Brexit to happen at all. The legislation is essentially an international treaty and MPs will be given time, as with any other bill, to debate what should and should not be in it. But deciding what should be in an international treaty usually takes time, something Mr Johnson does not have a lot of if he is to stay true to his Brexit promise.

READ MORE: Scottish court delays decision on Boris Johnson's Brexit tactics

It means the “programme motion” that will be tabled on Tuesday will be the first big vote as it will decide how long should be set aside to debate the bill. If MPs vote down or even amend the programme motion to beyond Halloween, it will be a setback for Mr Johnson.

When will MPs first vote on the Bill?

Tuesday will also see MPs have their first vote on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill when it appears for the second reading. It is at this point at the second reading vote that things could become very hairy for the government. MPs from across the House are expected to table a raft of amendments to try and reshape the bill more to their liking in what one MP described as being “guerrilla warfare”.

What kind of amendments will there be?

Labour has already said it is trying to garner support for an amendment that will keep the UK in a customs union with the EU. Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer made an open appeal to the DUP to back the plans, which it has yet to rule out.

The party sees preserving the Union as more of a priority than leaving the EU, and has been hugely critical of Mr Johnson’s deal. A previous indicative vote last March on remaining in the customs union only missed out by three votes, so there is every chance it could pass.

What about a second referendum?

There is also likely to be an attempt to demand the Brexit deal should be subject to a “confirmatory referendum” that would see the Brexit proposals put back to the people. However, there does not seem to be the support in the House for this as yet, if indeed there ever is.

What would the Government do if any of these amendments pass?

Should Parliament succeed in amending the legislation to keep the UK in a customs union, there is a strong possibility that Mr Johnson will simply pull the bill, rather than see what he and many hardline Brexiteers call “Brexit it name only”.

What would that mean for Brexit?

It would most likely mean more delay. The Prime Minister will be forced to accept any extension given by Brussels. It is expected that EU leaders will be monitoring what will happen in Parliament over the next couple of days before making a decision on how an extension to give to the UK.

There are suggestions that the EU could come back with a “flexible” extension that could mean three months (or more) being offered but that could be shortened if a Brexit deal is passed before then.

What is the most likely outcome?

It is not clear. The most obvious route for Mr Johnson would be to swallow the extension and push again for a general election. Should an extension be confirmed it will make it harder for Labour to refuse to hold a snap poll, despite misgivings about the party’s likely success among backbenchers.