Boris Johnson Might Not Even Get His Brexit Vote on Saturday

Robert Hutton and Jessica Shankleman

(Bloomberg) -- Boris Johnson may not even get the chance to put his Brexit deal to the vote on Saturday, with support growing for a move by an alliance of former Conservatives and opposition Members of Parliament to delay the decision by a week or more.

Former Tory minister Oliver Letwin and Labour MP Hilary Benn have put down an amendment to Johnson’s motion which would withhold approval for the Brexit deal until the bill that implements it is law.

If it is passed, Johnson would be unable to put his deal to the vote, leaving him in a situation where he’s obliged by law to seek a delay to Brexit.

The main opposition Labour Party is likely to order its MPs to support the amendment, according to two people familiar with the party’s plans. Other opposition parties are also on board. Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the 35-seat Scottish National Party, said she’s “sympathetic” to the plan and would back anything that makes sure the deal doesn’t go through on Saturday.

Johnson doesn’t have a majority, so a united opposition and the support of former Tories, such as Philip Hammond and David Gauke, gives the move a good chance of passing.

The amendment says Parliament should withhold approval of the deal “unless and until implementing legislation is passed.” That would automatically trigger the Benn Act, which says the prime minister must ask the EU for an extension if he hasn’t finalized a deal with both the EU and U.K. Parliament by Oct. 19.

“My aim is to ensure that Boris’s deal succeeds, but that we have an insurance policy which prevents the U.K. from crashing out on Oct. 31 by mistake if something goes wrong during the passage of the implementing legislation,” Letwin said in an email. “Nothing in my amendment or in the Benn Act itself in any way delays the actual departure of the U.K. from the EU immediately following the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement.”

Letwin won’t know until Saturday morning if his amendment has been selected for debate by Speaker John Bercow.

(Updates with Letwin in seventh paragraph.)

To contact the reporters on this story: Robert Hutton in London at rhutton1@bloomberg.net;Jessica Shankleman in London at jshankleman@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Thomas Penny, Andrew Atkinson

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