Up to a million protesters gathered while parliament sat on a Saturday for the first time in 30 years: here’s what went down
Earlier this week, Boris Johnson finalised a Brexit deal with the EU, getting rid of Theresa May’s Irish backstop plan but changing little else. Despite Johnson and president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker’s apparent optimism though, the PM still had to get the deal passed through the House of Commons.
That was the plan yesterday, dubbed “Super Saturday” (not a budget club night, but the first weekend sitting of parliament in for over 30 years). Unsurprisingly, the plan failed, with MPs voting to force a further delay.
Still, there’s a lot of confusion about whether the UK will have left the EU on October 31. Johnson has publically suggested that he believes the delay is a mistake and this morning (October 20) some ministers have claimed that the UK remains set to leave by the end of the month. Brexit is still a mess, basically, as it has been from start to finish.
In fact, did we get anywhere after yesterday’s session? Here’s what went down.
THOUSANDS GATHERED IN PROTEST
Thousands gathered for the People’s Vote March (some organisers reported up to a million). The protest called for a final say on a new deal, drawing activists from across the UK to march through central London, eventually converging in Parliament Square.
“I am going to the People’s Vote protest this weekend so that I know I personally did everything I could to hopefully bring about change,” said one protester ahead of the march, when we asked about the referendum three years on. The R3 Soundsystem also attended, bringing together protesters and DJs to campaign for a second referendum.
WE GOT SOME OF THE USUAL BREXIT SPIN
Inside parliament, Boris Johnson kept it pretty diplomatic, presumably because he needed cross-party support to pass the deal. He also said that he believed Britain would keep the “best tradition of the highest standards of environmental protections and workers’ rights” after Brexit, adding: “No one anywhere in this chamber believes in lowering standards.”
The level playing field for workers enforced by EU regulations actually wouldn’t be legally binding under the new Brexit deal, the BBC reports, with Labour's shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer accusing government of seeking “a licence to deregulate” the economy.
Jonathan Bartley, co-leader of the Green Party, has also criticised the UK’s environment watchdog, which – unlike its EU counterpart – won’t have power to enforce economic consequences for failing to meet climate commitments.
BUT THE LETWIN AMENDMENT PASSED, FORCING THE DELAY
The Letwin Amendment – named after MP Oliver Letwin, a former Tory rebel that now sits as an independent – was aimed at preventing the UK from leaving the EU with no deal if necessary legislation isn’t passed. The amendment passed with a majority of just 16 votes: 322 to 306.
As a result, the vote on the actual Brexit deal that Johnson was hoping for got cancelled. Video on Twitter shows protesters cheering at the possibility of an extension and safeguarding against a no-deal Brexit.
BORIS JOHNSON IS SENDING MIXED MESSAGES (LITERALLY)
A law passed in September – the Benn Act – required Boris Johnson to request a three month Brexit delay if he couldn’t pass a deal or convince MPs to vote for a no-deal brexit by October 19 (which, obviously, he couldn’t). As a result, he sent an unsigned letter outlining the request to the EU last night.
However, he also sent a signed letter that seems to advise against granting the delay, writing: “a further extension would damage the interests of the UK and our EU partners, and the relationship between us.” This letter also suggests a disregard for the extension request, reading: “the Government will press ahead with ratification and introduce the necessary legislation early next week. I remain confident that we will complete that process by 31 October.”
If so, then another massive protest looks very likely in the near future.