Boris Johnson’s key 31 October Brexit pledge now very difficult to get done
Boris Johnson has lost a key vote on his Brexit plan which would have allowed him to cut short the timetable for passing the new laws in order to leave on 31 October. The prime minister won the first key vote and branded it a momentous occasion as MPs for the first time voted to support an agreement struck between the UK and the EU after refusing to do so three times under Theresa May. But the loss of the second vote on the timetable by a margin of 322 to 308 led to Mr Johnson announcing he has paused the bill, halting any further progress and making it even more difficult for him to pass the law by the end of the month. The prime minister said he will now speak to EU leaders on the phone and ask them to make a decision about the length of the extension they will offer to the UK. Earlier in the day he warned if the delay ran to 31 January next year or beyond he would scrap the bill entirely and seek a general election. His spokesman did not respond to questions about whether a shorter extension would be acceptable and allow him to get the bill through the House of Commons before the end of the year but he did not rule it out. Responding to the decision by MPs, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn offered to talk to Mr Johnson about a new timetable but the prime minister did not respond to his suggestion.