Closed Boris Johnson denied vote on Brexit deal — as it happened

John Bercow makes  Speaker's Statement: The Speaker makes a stat

A live blog from FT.com


And we’re back…

Super Saturday was well … maybe not so super after all. Boris Johnson was defeated when MPs voted on a measure that deferred approval of his Brexit pact. While it was not the outcome the prime minister wanted, City analysts are fairly upbeat this morning on the prospects his deal will pass with a slim majority early this week.

The situation in Westminster will remain fluid, however, and as we’ve seen time and again, surprises seem to lurk around every corner.

We’ll be covering the story right here on this blog and on FT.com throughout the day – and potentially late into the evening.


Sterling wavers as traders weigh Johnson’s next moves

Sterling was steady early on Monday after a Commons defeat at the weekend left Boris Johnson scrambling to push through his Brexit deal over the next few days.

The pound was little changed at $1.2973, recovering from falls in Asian trading. It was up 0.1 per cent against the euro at €1.162.

Monday’s muted market reaction came after MPs voted in the first Saturday sitting since 1982 to approve a measure that stripped Mr Johnson of a “meaningful vote” on the Brexit deal the prime minister had negotiated with Brussels last week.

Analysts and investors said the vote injected some uncertainty into the political situation in Westminster, with Mr Johnson now having to attempt to push through his legislation on either Monday or Tuesday. However, several City of London investment banks said it appeared Mr Johnson was on track to secure a majority on his deal.

“While developments over the weekend certainly puncture some of the prime minister’s political momentum, we think they also reveal that the PM can command a stable cross-party majority in favour of his Brexit deal,” said Sven Jari Stehn, head of Europe economics at Goldman Sachs. “The decisive test of that deal has been postponed by a few days; the deal has not been defeated.”

Malcolm Barr, economist at JPMorgan, said: “Our best guess at this point is that Johnson will secure a majority for the deal, even if not on Monday, and that attempts to graft a second referendum on to the bill will fail.”

He added, however, that “visibility on the exact path ahead is low, and the political situation is volatile”.


So, here’s where we are up to and what we have to look forward to

Boris Johnson will make another attempt to win parliament’s backing for his Brexit deal over the next few days.

• Parliament will meet at 2.30pm London time

• Jacob Rees-Mogg, leader of the Commons, will seek to hold another meaningful vote by MPs on the deal on Monday, but the Speaker, John Bercow, may not allow it to be debated

• Government insiders say a more likely route is the second reading of the withdrawal agreement on Tuesday: MPs will be asked to vote on whether they agree with the principle of Mr Johnson’s deal. If he wins this, Brexit is back on track

• Foreign secretary Dominic Raab said on Sunday that the government “appears to have the numbers” to secure parliamentary approval for the legislation

• Calculations by the Financial Times suggest he will win by a slim majority of five votes

• The prime minister lost a crucial vote on Saturday — 322 to 306 — which compelled him to seek a delay

• He wrote to Brussels last Saturday seeking a three-month delay to the Article 50 exit process


Sterling rallies as traders poised for next stage in Brexit process

The pound reversed earlier losses to rise about 0.2 per cent against the dollar and euro as traders weigh the next stage of the Brexit process in parliament.

Sterling, recently at $1.2995, went as high as $1.3010 in early morning trading in London. The move brings its advance against the dollar this month to about 5.8 per cent, putting it on track for its best month since May 2009 when it rose 9.4 per cent.


What’s on the docket: today’s Commons order paper


Government to introduce Brexit deal in Commons

Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal is to be introduced in the House of Commons today, following the setback on Saturday, according to parliament’s website.

The big outstanding question, though, is whether Speaker John Bercow will allow a second attempt at a “meaningful vote” after rejecting similar moves by Theresa May when she was prime minister. Westminster insiders see it as more likely that Mr Bercow will knock the measure down, and that Mr Johnson will push for a “second reading” of the measure on Tuesday, which will provide insight on whether or not he has the backing of a majority in parliament.


Tusk consults with EU leaders on UK extension request

Jim Brunsden reports from Brussels:

A spokeswoman for the European Commission said that Donald Tusk “is now consulting leaders of the EU27” on Britain’s request to delay Brexit, adding that “it is first and foremost for the UK to explain the next steps”.

Asked about the implications of Boris Johnson’s decision not to sign the extension request, the spokeswoman said the lack of a signature changed nothing, because the request was made by the UK’s ambassador to the EU, Tim Barrow.

The spokeswoman also confirmed that the EU has launched its own ratification process of the Brexit deal (although the European Parliament has been clear that it will not vote until Westminster has approved the agreement).

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, will debrief MEPs this afternoon in Strasbourg and will update the EU commission’s leadership on Tuesday.

“We from our side will of course follow events in London very closely,” she said.


Germany does not rule out ‘short technical’ extension — reports

Heiko Maas says he hopes that MPs will vote on Monday to proceed with an orderly exit from the EU but that he doesn’t rule out a short extension to allow London more time to pass legislation.

“Should there be problems in Britain with the ratification, I would not rule out that there could be a short, technical extension,” Reuters reported the German foreign minister as saying.

I hope that the British lower house, showing the necessary responsibility, can take a decision on this today and that on the basis of this decision we will be in a position to achieve an orderly Brexit.

Should there not be a majority in the British lower house, then we in the European Union would have to look at whether there would then be a full extension – and only then would there be a decision about that.


What to expect in parliament today

The FT’s political editor George Parker has an update on how things are likely to shape up in the Commons today:

• The Speaker will decide at about 3.30pm on whether to accept the “meaningful vote” proposal from the government to be put to the vote tonight.

• If John Bercow does accept it, the “rebel alliance” may well put down a Letwin-style amendment which would – in the words of No 10 – render “the meaningful vote meaningless”. In other words a repeat of Saturday. If that amendment was accepted by Mr Bercow, Downing St said it would immediately abandon the meaningful vote, to avoid another Saturday-style debacle.

• Meanwhile the government is expected to publish the Withdrawal Agreement Bill later on Monday – the long-awaited detailed legislation that puts Mr Johnson’s Brexit deal – an international treaty – into British domestic law.

• MPs have never seen this legislation before, yet will be expected to give it a second reading – the big “in priniciple vote” – on Tuesday.

• Ministers are hopeful that the Withdrawal Agreement Bill will get its second reading on Tuesday and then aim to pass it through all its Commons stages by the weekend. It would then pass to the House of Lords, with peers sitting through the weekend.

• A key moment is expected on Tuesday when MPs vote on a “programme motion”, which would give the government the ability to ram the legislation through parliament at breakneck speed ahead of October 31 exit day.


Why the Withdrawal Agreement Bill is awkward for the government

There are good reasons why the legislation has been kept under wraps: some of the details are a little awkward for Tory Eurosceptics, George Parker writes.

For example, some people may have forgotten that Mr Johnson’s deal includes a transition period, during which Britain remains in the single market, customs union and ECJ jurisdiction.

That means the WAB will reintroduce (temporarily) into British law a whole load of EU legislation that the government – with great fanfare – has recently repealed.

In August Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay signed with a flourish the repeal of the 1972 European Communities Act.


Scottish court maintains judicial pressure on Johnson

The highest civil court in Scotland on Monday has kept alive a legal effort to ensure prime minister Boris Johnson abides by the law that forced him to seek a Brexit delay, writes Mure Dickie in Edinburgh.

The decision by three judges of the Edinburgh court’s higher inner house means continuing judicial pressure on Mr Johnson and implies continuing doubt about his willingness to accept any further extension of the UK’s EU membership.

The court this month suspended consideration of the case after assurances from government officials that Mr Johnson would abide by the Benn Act.

The act required the prime minister to seek a delay to the UK’s scheduled October 31 departure from the EU if he did not secure parliamentary approval for a withdrawal agreement or a no-deal departure by October 19.

Lord Carloway, the Edinburgh court’s lord president, said that, for reasons similar to its previous delay, the court considered the case should be continued until it was clear that the prime minister’s obligations had been “complied with in full”.

The date of a future hearing would be decided later, he said.

The FT’s law and policy commentator David Allen Green said the decision was the “worst possible result” for the government:

‘Dom’ is a reference to Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s chief adviser. Read more of David’s thoughts on Twitter here.


Brexit secretary: Government hopeful of fresh vote this week

The Brexit secretary said the government was frustrated by Saturday’s defeat in the House of Commons but hopes the Speaker will allow another go at the so-called meaningful vote this week.

Stephen Barclay told the House of Lords EU select committee on Monday afternoon that “it was frustrating for many of us on Saturday that we were not able to have the meaningful vote”.

He says the first issue the government is watching today is whether the Speaker, John Bercow, allows a government attempt to hold another vote later on Monday.

“Because these things are moving at a very quick pace we will take things one step at a time,” he said. “We hope the Speaker will enable the House to have a meaningful vote.”


Polish zloty and Hungarian forint winners from Brexit relief

Poland and Hungary are two of the biggest beneficiaries of easing concerns over a potential no-deal Brexit … at least if you ask currency traders.

The zloty and the forint have been the best-performing emerging market currencies this month, according to research from Piotr Matys at Rabobank in London. The former has risen 4.6 per cent against the dollar, while the latter is up 3.9 per cent.

Mr Matys notes that both the UK and Germany are key trading partners for the duo and are also of course two of the economies with the most to lose from a chaotic Brexit:

The main source of the impressive performance of zloty and forint is a market relief that a no-deal Brexit will be averted, at least for now. The UK is an important trading partner for Poland and Hungary. Both countries would have been not only directly impacted, but hard Brexit would have also negative implications for Germany, which is even more crucial for Poland and Hungary than the UK.


Sterling hovers around $1.30 level

The pound is holding just above the $1.30 level in afternoon trading in London, after climbing above the threshold for the first time since May earlier today.

Sterling was recently trading up 0.2 per cent at $1.30 (almost exactly). If it holds that level through the New York afternoon, it will mark the highest fix in more than five months, according to Refinitiv data.

While Boris Johnson faced a setback in Saturday’s extraordinary sitting of parliament, analysts are increasingly marking down their assessment for the odds of a no-deal Brexit at the end of this month.

“Today, investors are back to guessing how the Brexit saga might finally unfold,” said Edoardo Campanella, economist at UniCredit in Milan. “This, however, does not seem to have dampened much of the optimism among investors that a deal-based Brexit will finally happen, as shown by the relative stability of the pound.”


Waiting on the Speaker

Here’s an update of the latest Brexit developments at just after 2pm London time:

• There is growing confidence in the government that it now has the backing of the 320 MPs needed to pass the Brexit deal agreed with the EU. The question is when will that vote be?

• We are in a holding pattern waiting for the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, to decide whether to accept a fresh ‘meaningful vote’ this evening.

• If the vote is scuppered today, MPs are expected to be asked to vote on whether they agree with the principle of Mr Johnson’s new deal on Tuesday, in the second reading of the Withdrawal Agreement bill.

• There are possible snags ahead for the government, including opposition parties amending the Withdrawal Agreement bill to try to force a second referendum or keep Britain in the customs union.

• The EU has confirmed it is considering Britain’s request for a Brexit extension.


France presses UK parliament to make a quick decision

France is maintaining its pressure on the UK parliament to take a quick decision on Boris Johnson’s new Brexit agreement with the EU, although it has been careful not to rule out a possible further extension beyond October 31 if that is needed to avoid a no-deal departure, writes Victor Mallet in Paris.

French government spokesperson Sibeth Ndiaye said:

“It’s now up to the British parliament to say what it thinks, it’s no longer up to the EU.”

She said it was up to the British to give a clear answer on whether they were in favour of the new withdrawal agreement or against it.

“After that – once we have a clear answer to the question which I know is not simple but which has also been the subject of more than two years of negotiations – we will be able to decide what our attitude is.”

President Emmanuel Macron and his ministers never wanted Brexit and are wary of the disruption to travel and trade that would result from a no-deal Brexit, but they have become increasingly frustrated by the delays and uncertainties caused by the deadlocks in the House of Commons.

Amélie de Montchalin, France’s Europe minister, said the new deal agreed with Mr Johnson met the demands of both sides. “On that basis, we need a ‘Yes’ or a ‘No’. We have neither,” she told the Journal du Dimanche in an interview.

“That means the EU27 can only make a decision on a ‘Yes’ or a ‘No’. As President Macron has often said, the EU doesn’t do political fiction.”


Traders are still short the pound despite its rally

Investors are still bearish on the pound and have barely decreased their short bets against the currency even as it has rallied following Boris Johnson’s renegotiation of the Brexit deal with the EU.

The net positioning of “non-commercial” players in the futures markets — a category that includes individual investors, hedge funds and other asset managers — remains stacked against the pound, and was largely flat in the period from October 9 to October 16.

That’s despite sterling’s sharp rise of around 4 per cent in that period, as investors cheered the prime minister’s unexpected exit deal.

Francesco Pesole, FX strategist at ING, said: “We might need to wait for next week’s data to witness some ‘short-squeezing’ effect, but for now, a still extensive short market positioning (-30 per cent of open interest) on the pound tends to suggest more upside room for the currency.”

Futures trading represents a small sliver of the $6.6tn-a-day foreign exchange market, but provides a useful insight into investor sentiment.

Chart from ING


Brexit Briefing: How the next two days might play out

James Blitz’s Brexit Briefing newsletter is hot off the (digital) press:

The next four days are (obviously!) going to be critical for Brexit. All the signs are that MPs are coming round to backing Boris Johnson’s deal. But Commons procedure is complex and surprises are likely.

Here’s a guide to how the next few days at Westminster might play out.

Monday

John Bercow, Commons Speaker, will make a statement at 3.30pm today on whether he will allow a meaningful vote on the Johnson deal to be held this evening. The expectation is he will not allow it for technical reasons (which Hannah White of the Institute for Government explains here). However, Mr Bercow has proved unpredictable.

Even if the Speaker allows the meaningful vote, Downing Street has made clear it will pull it if there are amendments attached that render it “meaningless”. So that reduces the chance of a big vote tonight even further.

Sign up for the newsletter by clicking here.

Tuesday

The government will begin the debate on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill. This is the mammoth piece of legislation (to be published tonight) that brings the Johnson deal into UK law.

There are two key votes here.

First, there will be the first big vote on the WAB (called “second reading”). Assuming there is no meaningful vote on Monday night, this becomes the landmark vote to decide whether the Commons backs Mr Johnson’s deal. Ministers are increasingly confident of victory.

Downing Street’s understanding is that the “second reading” motion cannot be amended or qualified in any way so it’s a straight yes/no vote. It will be hugely significant.

If it passes, the Commons will then immediately vote on a programme motion that will state that the WAB must complete its Commons stages by Friday so it can be on the statute book by October 31 — the day Mr Johnson has pledged to take the UK out of the EU. If this fails to be passed, ministers fear that debate will drag on, delaying Brexit until well into next year.


House of Commons begins its sitting

The House of Commons has begun today’s business.

Defence questions are first up, and we are expecting that critical ruling from the Speaker on whether to allow the government to table its Brexit deal for a debate and vote for a second time in around an hour.


Scottish and Welsh first ministers ask EU to support extension

From Mure Dickie in Edinburgh:

The Scottish and Welsh governments have jointly called on the EU to agree to delay Brexit long enough for a second referendum on whether the UK should really leave.

In a letter to Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon and her Welsh counterpart Mark Drakeford said the UK government’s Brexit timetable would make it impossible for their governments to adequately scrutinise the terms of EU withdrawal.

“[A further Brexit delay] would allow us to adequately scrutinise the agreement and the draft legislation in accordance with our constitutional responsibilities.”

“While clearly it is a matter for the council to consider how long such an extension should be, we would favour one which is long enough to enable a referendum with remain on the ballot paper.”

The joint effort by the Scottish National party government in Edinburgh and Cardiff’s Labour-led administration reflects their shared opposition to Brexit and concerns about the relatively distant economic relationship envisaged by Boris Johnson.

Ms Sturgeon and Mr Drakeford also wrote to Mr Johnson demanding more time for their governments and legislatures to consider the prime minister’s Withdrawal Agreement Bill.

Elements of the bill touch on areas of law devolved to Scotland and Wales and under UK constitutional convention such legislation would not be enacted without the consent of the Welsh and Scottish legislatures.

“Both our governments believe the deal you have negotiated with the EU will be even more damaging to Wales, Scotland and the United Kingdom than the previous unacceptable agreement made by your predecessor.”


European Parliament won’t vote on Brexit deal this week

The European Parliament has said it would not be voting to ratify the deal this week but held out the possibility of an extraordinary session next week should the House of Commons back the agreement, Mehreen Khan in Brussels writes.


Will the Speaker give Johnson a fresh run at a Brexit vote today?

There is a lot of attention on fairly obscure parliamentary procedure today.

That is because the government wants to bring back a second ‘meaningful vote’ on its Brexit deal today, after MPs on Saturday voted to delay passing their judgment.

As James Blitz mentioned below, the Speaker John Bercow can be unpredictable, but he is expected to refuse the vote.

When dealing with Theresa May’s government on the same question earlier this year, Mr Bercow cited parliamentary precedent dating to 1604 that prevents the reintroduction of a measure that was “the same in substance” to one that had already been voted down in the same parliamentary session.

Here is the Institute for Government’s Hannah White:

“My interpretation is that the House’s ‘same question’ rule applies (you can’t ask the House the same question twice in one session). The wording of the motion today is not exactly the same as Saturday’s but it is ‘the same fundamental proposition’”


Emoticon Speaker blocks new vote on Brexit deal today

The Speaker will not allow a meaningful vote on the Johnson deal to be held this evening.

John Bercow told MPs: “It is clear that the motions are in substance the same” and that it would be “repetitive and disorderly” to debate them again.


What now for the Brexit deal?

The Speaker’s ruling delays the government’s push to put its Brexit deal back in front of MPs, but is not a terminal blow.

The new route, as the Speaker outlined in his statement, will be via a debate on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, which is the legislation that brings the exit deal into UK law.


Sterling briefly slips after Bercow decision

FT currencies reporter Eva Szalay writes:

Sterling briefly turned negative as Commons Speaker John Bercow ruled that the government can’t hold a vote on its deal today.

The currency slipped to $1.2958 from trading above $1.30 earlier in the day. The pound also gave up some its earlier gains against the euro, but it’s still trading in the black against the single currency at €1.1653.


More on Speaker Bercow’s decision

The FT’s Laura Hughes and George Parker write:

Commons Speaker John Bercow has refused Boris Johnson a “meaningful vote” on his new Brexit deal on Monday.

The prime minister is now expected to try to secure a majority for his deal when legislation implementing the deal is put to a vote in the Commons on Tuesday.

Mr Johnson’s plan for a new “meaningful vote”— replacing the vote aborted by the government on Saturday after MPs effectively voted to delay giving their approval — was scuppered by Mr Bercow on Monday afternoon.

Mr Bercow said he had judged that the motion tabled by the government on Monday was the same in substance to the motion tabled on Saturday.

“It’s clear that the motions are in substance the same,” he told MPs. “My ruling is therefore that the motion will not be debated today as it would be repetitive and disorderly to do so.

“However, this matter was decided fewer than 49 hours ago. After more than three hours of debate the House voted by 322 to 306 for Sir Oliver Letwin’s amendment, which stated that ‘this House has considered the matter but withholds approval unless and until implementing legislation is passed’.”

Mr Bercow said the “same question convention” is “a necessary rule to ensure the sensible use of the House’s time, and proper respect for the decisions that it takes”.

The government is expected to publish the Withdrawal Agreement Bill later on Monday – the long-awaited detailed legislation that puts Mr Johnson’s Brexit deal – an international treaty – into British domestic law.

MPs have never seen this legislation before, yet will be expected to give it a second reading – the big “in priniciple vote” – on Tuesday.

If Mr Johnson wins tomorrow’s vote he will bring forward a “programme motion” to accelerate the Brexit legislation through the Commons and Lords in time for the October 31 deadline.


Eurosceptics criticise Speaker’s decision

Tory Eurosceptics have immediately questioned the Speaker’s decision.

Peter Bone said that nobody knew on Saturday whether the prime minister would send the letter requesting an extension to the EU, suggesting a vote today would be under fresh circumstances.

Bernard Jenkin said the House had been denied the chance to express its view. He also accused the Speaker of regularly pleasing only one side of the Brexit debate.

Mr Bercow vigorously defended his impartiality:

“When he was getting the decisions in his favour he wasn’t grumbling. He is grumbling now because he doesn’t like the judgment… I am trying to do the right thing for the House as a whole.”


Speaker: Not stopping a later Brexit vote

The Speaker has repeated that the government can still have a vote on its Brexit deal via the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, and pass the relevant legislation by the end of the month if it has the numbers in the House.

“If the government have the numbers, the government can have their way, and it is not for the speaker to interfere.”


MPs expected to vote on Brexit deal tomorrow

The lengthy and at times heated debate over the Speaker’s decision has concluded.

As MPs move on with the day’s business, the Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay confirmed the Withdrawal Agreement Bill will be introduced for a first reading later today.

MPs are expected to hold a landmark vote on whether to back Boris Johnson’s deal as part of their debate on the bill tomorrow.


‘Time for parliament to decide’

Parliament needs to decide whether or not it is prepared to back this deal, the FT’s UK political commentator Robert Shrimsley writes.

With the extension now requested, there is no case for more delay. MPs need to back the agreement or bring down the government and try to persuade voters to endorse a new path. This is the constitutionally correct choice. No good can come of further stasis.

Read Robert’s full commentary here.


Attention switches to tomorrow’s votes

The Brexit process continues to flatter to deceive, but tomorrow really could be a critical one. 

It is worth digging back into today’s FT Brexit Briefing to outline how tomorrow’s events in parliament are likely to play out.

Here is our Whitehall editor James Blitz’s assessment:

• The government will begin the debate on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill. This is the mammoth piece of legislation (to be published tonight) that brings the Johnson deal into UK law. There are two key votes here.

• First, there will be the first big vote on the WAB (called “second reading”). Assuming there is no meaningful vote on Monday night, this becomes the landmark vote to decide whether the Commons backs Boris Johnson’s deal. Ministers are increasingly confident of victory.

• Downing Street’s understanding is that the “second reading” motion cannot be amended or qualified in any way so it’s a straight yes/no vote. It will be hugely significant.

• If it passes, the Commons will then immediately vote on a programme motion that will state that the WAB must complete its Commons stages by Friday so it can be on the statute book by October 31 — the day Mr Johnson has pledged to take the UK out of the EU.

• If this fails to be passed, ministers fear that debate will drag on, delaying Brexit until well into next year.


FT analysis – Johnson could have a majority of five for his deal

According to an analysis by the Financial Times based on past voting records and public statements, there could be a majority of five for the Brexit deal, which is now expected on Tuesday.

320 MPs appear set to back Mr Johnson’s deal, with 315 opposed.


We’re back tomorrow

We are going to close today’s blog, but will be back tomorrow morning for another critical day.

Do check in with FT.com for the latest in the meantime, and you can read our story on John Bercow’s decision to block the prime minister’s attempt to hold a second ‘meaningful vote’ on his new Brexit deal here.

See you tomorrow.