Super Saturday in UK parliament Today will mark the first time UK parliament has sat on a Saturday since the 1982 Falklands war. Boris Johnson faces what is expected to be a knife-edge vote on pushing through the Brexit deal he negotiated with Brussels this week. The maths are tight in the first place. But Tory grandee Oliver Letwin has muddied the waters even further by proposing an amendment that would defer full parliamentary approval of Mr Johnson’s deal until the relevant implementing legislation is passed. Mr Johnson would then have to write a letter to the EU seeking a Brexit delay. The measure has the backing of former cabinet ministers including Philip Hammond and David Gauke as well as Labour’s support. FT correspondents will be covering all the twists and turns right here on this blog … so stick around for live coverage and let us know what you think in the comments.
Adam Samson 16 HOURS AGO ERG chair Steve Baker backs Johnson deal The FT’s Sebastian Payne reports: Boris Johnson’s hopes of passing a deal today have been boosted by support from the European Research Group of Conservative Brexiters. The leadership of ERG, including its 28 so-called Spartans, recommended its members support the government in the vote after an early morning meeting in Westminster. Mark Francois, deputy chair of the ERG, explained his decision to the FT: “I am not normally accused of being indecisive but I have genuinely agonised over this decision. However, having met the PM twice today I have put my trust in him to take us out of the EU at last.
“I hope my fellow ‘Spartans’, who successfully held the pass back in March, will now come to the same conclusion and back the PM.” Mr Johnson will need nearly all of the 28 hardline ERG members on board if he has any hope of passing the deal. Downing Street is still expecting 3-5 MPs will hold out against the deal, but one Brexiter minister said “I think we can get everyone there.” Philip Georgiadis 15 HOURS AGO Brexit Secretary: Listen to business and back the deal Stephen Barclay, the Brexit secretary, has urged MPs to listen to business and back the deal. He told Sky News: The key issue for MPs across all parties today is to listen to the voices of business, the Institute of Directors for example have made it clear it is time to back this deal. The Bank of England governor has said this will be a major boost to the economy.
We have debated these issues endlessly, the PM has secured a great deal, a deal that addresses the central concerns that MPs previously had, it is now time for us to get Brexit done. The BoE governor Mark Carney yesterday said there were still uncertainties over what the final Brexit outcome would look like. But he said it was beneficial that there would be a transition period if the withdrawal agreement were to be approved by MPs. Adam Samson 15 HOURS AGO Hammond: Letwin amendment an ‘insurance policy’ against no-deal ‘crash out’ Philip Hammond has said the amendment proposed by Tory grandee Oliver Letwin would serve as an “insurance policy” meant to “remove any risk” of a chaotic no-deal Brexit. The former UK Chancellor told the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme he backs the measure since it would allow MPs time to consider Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal without the “constant threat of the government to pull the plug and crash us out” of the EU on October 31.
Prime minister Johnson has attempted to frame Saturday’s vote as a binary decision: vote for his deal or face the risk of a damaging no-deal Brexit. But the Letwin amendment could scupper this argument by deferring full parliamentary approval of the pact until the relevant implementing legislation is passed. There is a high likelihood that the Letwin measure, which also has Labour’s backing, would cast serious doubts on Mr Johnson’s hopes of pulling the UK out of the EU by the October 31 deadline because it would open the measure to further scrutiny from MPs. Adam Samson 15 HOURS AGO Boris Johnson to speak shortly Here is a look at today’s House of Commons order paper: Philip Georgiadis 15 HOURS AGO How MPs could vote The FT has been crunching the numbers on how MPs could vote – if they are given the chance – on the Brexit deal. On the eve of the poll, our Westminster’s teams calculation gave Boris Johnson a majority of four.
Things could have moved since then, of course… Philip Georgiadis 15 HOURS AGO Parliament’s Saturday sitting begins Speaker John Bercow has begun proceedings. An early groan from some MPs when he confirms the ‘Letwin amendment’ has been selected for debate. Philip Georgiadis 15 HOURS AGO Boris Johnson: I hope we will have a vote The prime minister is speaking. Making reference to the Letwin amendment which would defer full parliamentary approval of his deal, he said: “I do hope that in assembling for the purpose of a ‘meaningful vote,’ that we will be allowed to have a ‘meaningful vote.’” Philip Georgiadis 15 HOURS AGO Johnson urges MPs to back deal Boris Johnson says it is “urgent” for Britain to move on from the last three and a half years and heal “the rift in British politics.”
“Now is the time for this great House of Commons to come together and bring the country together today, as I believe people at home are hoping and expecting.” He praises the EU27 for their flexibility in re-opening the Withdrawal Agreement. On the wider difficulty of the Brexit process, he said the UK has a “shared destiny” with its European neighbours. He added that it is because Britain is both “sceptical about the modes of EU integration…but passionate and enthusiastic about Europe that the whole experience of the last three and a half years has been so difficult for this country and so divisive.” Philip Georgiadis 15 HOURS AGO Johnson explains the Brexit deal The prime minister has outlined the details of his deal to MPs. Here is the FT’s analysis of what the deal contains.
The “exciting enterprise” of building a new relationship with Europe can begin if MPs pass the deal, Mr Johnson said. He includes a nod to some MPs concerns over workers’ rights and environmental standards. “No-one anywhere in this chamber believe in lowering standards,” he said, to loud jeers of disbelief from some opposition MPs. Johnson added that in any future trade negotiations, with any country, “our NHS will not be on the table”. Philip Georgiadis 14 HOURS AGO Johnson: Little EU appetite for a delay The prime minister has tackled the possibility of having to ask EU leaders for an extension, without mentioning the ‘Letwin amendment’ specifically. He said MPs who prefer to avoid a no-deal exit “must abandon a delusion” that parliament can delay again. There is very little appetite in the EU “for this business to be protracted by one extra day,” Mr Johnson said. “Whatever letter they may seek to force the government to write, it cannot change my judgement that further delay is pointless, expensive, and deeply corrosive to public trust.
” Philip Georgiadis 14 HOURS AGO Corbyn: Labour ‘will not be duped’ Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is now speaking. Mr Corbyn said the prime minister’s renegotiated deal is worse than Theresa May’s, and criticised the lack of an economic impact assessment. “These benches will not be duped.” Mr Corbyn has already confirmed his party will not support the deal, although the votes of some rebel Labour MPs could be critical if there is a vote later on. Number 10 officials reached out to opposition MPs yesterday in a bid to cobble together a majority. Adam Samson 14 HOURS AGO ERG to MPs: ‘Support Boris Johnson’s deal to completion’ Steve Baker, chair of the European Research Group of Conservative Brexiters, has published the group’s advice to MPs: 1. vote for Boris’s deal in the national interest 2. support the legislation to completion in good faith, provided it is not spoiled by opponents of Brexit 3. vote with Boris throughout to give him maximum opportunity to deliver for our country Philip Georgiadis 14 HOURS AGO Leaders clash on the economy The two leaders have traded views on what British business wants. We are not learning a great deal. Mr Corbyn warned of the economic consequences of voting through this vision of Brexit, while the prime minister said a future Labour government is the biggest threat to British businesses.
Philip Georgiadis 14 HOURS AGO SNP: Prime minister treating Scotland with contempt The SNP’s Ian Blackford is speaking. His MPs will not support the deal. Mr Blackford said there was not a single reference to Scotland in the prime minister’s opening statement. He echoes Jeremy Corbyn that the new deal is worse than Theresa May’s – she is in the chamber this morning. Teeing up a future clash on the union between Scotland and the rest of the UK, Mr Blackford said the deal “shafts” Scotland. The prime minister chooses to begin his response by congratulating the English rugby team for this morning’s World Cup quarter final win. He says the deal is great for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Philip Georgiadis 14 HOURS AGO ‘People’s Vote’ demonstration expected today Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson highlighted the mass demonstrations backing a second referendum expected outside parliament today, and called for the public to have say.
Philip Georgiadis 14 HOURS AGO DUP: Read the detail of the deal The prime minister’s failure to win the support of Northern Ireland’s DUP was a critical blow to his deal and has left today’s vote on a knife-edge. The DUP’s Nigel Dodds has urged MPs to read the details of the proposals, which he said leaves Northern Ireland de facto inside the EU’s customs arrangements and VAT regime. He urged Boris Johnson to reconsider. Adam Samson 14 HOURS AGO Johnson faces ambush by Tory grandees Here is the latest dispatch from George Parker, the FT’s political editor: Boris Johnson’s promise to deliver a “real Brexit” on October 31 was facing a parliamentary ambush by Conservative grandees on Saturday, with Downing St fearing it could be heading for defeat in a key vote. Oliver Letwin, former Tory cabinet minister, has tabled an amendment that would withhold formal parliamentary approval for Mr Johnson’s new Brexit deal, forcing the prime minister to seek an extension to the Article 50 exit process. Mr Johnson’s allies admitted that Sir Oliver, backed by Labour, former Tory cabinet ministers and opposition parties, could win a majority for the move, halting the prime minister’s drive to push quickly ahead to ratify the deal. If MPs back the amendment, Mr Johnson’s allies said the effect would be to postpone the long-waited showdown Commons vote on the new deal and that Tory MPs would be sent home early on Saturday afternoon.
Instead Mr Johnson would bring forward the Withdrawal Agreement bill to implement the Brexit deal for a Commons second reading vote on Tuesday – meaning that vote would become the “crunch” decision for MPs. The prime minister, opening the first Saturday sitting of the Commons since the Falklands War in 1982, urged MPs to reject the Letwin amendment and to deliver on the public’s desire to “get Brexit done”. He said: “This deal provides a way forward. It is a new and better deal for the UK and for our friends in the EU.” Philip Georgiadis 14 HOURS AGO Philip Hammond suggests he has not decided how to vote Every vote will count later today if MPs are given a final vote on the deal. Former chancellor Philip Hammond has suggested he has not made up his mind yet on how to vote: “Before I decide on whether to jump on the prime minister’s bus I would like to be a little clearer on the destination. I would like to be reassured that it remains the deep and special partnership with the EU that we promised the British people in the 2017 manifesto.
” Adam Samson 14 HOURS AGO Full text: Boris Johnson’s statement to parliament Boris Johnson has urged parliament to pass his Brexit deal, saying it is “urgent for us to move on and build a new relationship with our friends in the EU on the basis of a new deal”. We have uploaded the full text of his remarks. Adam Samson 13 HOURS AGO Jitters building among sterling traders as pivotal vote looms Katie Martin, FT markets editor, reports: Financial markets are (thankfully) closed for the weekend, giving traders no capacity to react to the events unfolding in Parliament today. (Those of us who are growing dizzy from the constant oscillation in the value of the pound might see this as a good thing, but we digress). Markets open for Asian trading on Sunday evening UK time, and they will be chomping at the bit to respond to the vote. In the mean time, nerves are building. Goldman Sachs, for example, over a week ago either bravely or presciently advised its clients to brace for a positive outcome to talks. It recommended buying sterling with a view to it hitting $1.30 in the event that a deal was secured. (The currency ended the week at $1.2971). Now, the bank says it still expects the deal to pass, so it is sticking with that trade recommendation. But, it adds that the vote is “likely to be very tight”. Previously its call to buy the pound had a so-called ‘stop loss’ (or giving-up point) of $1.19. Now it has lifted that to $1.26 and recognised that getting into that trade at this point is not a great bet.
“The risk/reward through the vote itself looks poor,” it said. Whatever the outcome of the vote, brace for a choppy start to trading, it added. Good luck, sterling punters. Philip Georgiadis 13 HOURS AGO Unionist MP: Anxiety and anger in Northern Ireland Sylvia Hermon, an independent unionist MP, said there is “considerable anxiety and indeed anger” in the Northern Irish unionist community. Her views are significant as they offer an alternative window into unionist thinking from the DUP. She said the prime minister has not “bothered” to reach out to reassure people in Northern Ireland that his deal will not undermine the Good Friday Agreement. “As a unionist I need to hear a British prime minister making that commitment to the unionist community.” Boris Johnson said he was committed to the consitutional status of Northern Ireland staying intact. Philip Georgiadis 13 HOURS AGO Johnson fears vote will not be meaningful An interesting line from the prime minister, which underlines fears in Downing Street that the ‘Letwin amendment’ will pass and derail hopes for today’s vote to be a decisive break in the Brexit process: “My fear is that the vote that we have will not prove to be meaningful.” A reminder on the process here. Former Tory cabinet minister Oliver Letwin has tabled an amendment that would withhold formal parliamentary approval for Mr Johnson’s new Brexit deal, forcing the prime minister to seek an extension to the Article 50 exit process.
Adam Samson 13 HOURS AGO Labour to whip for Letwin amendment Labour will whip its MPs in favour of the Letwin amendment today, reports Sebastian Payne. A spokesperson for leader Jeremy Corbyn say they won’t allow the PM to “blackmail MPs between his sell-out deal and no deal.” Sarah Provan 13 HOURS AGO Protesters descend on London to demand second referendum Thousands waving EU flags and carrying anti-Brexit banners are streaming into and across the capital to take part in a pro-referendum march that will start at Park Lane near Marble Arch, reports Jennifer Thompson as demonstrators gather in central London. Protesters calling for a second referendum to give the public a say over Brexit will march to Westminster where the prime minister will present to parliament a Brexit deal designed to clear the way for the UK’s departure from the EU on the scheduled date of October 31. “A vote on the new deal is the only fair way,” said London resident Alison Lydon, who works for a children’s mental health charity and is marching with several family members, draped in EU flags and Union Jacks, who have joined her from Cheshire. You can’t take what people said three years ago [in the EU membership referendum of 2016].
“A people’s say on the final deal is the only way to move this forward,” says Kavita Baldwin, an academic from Nottingham who voted Remain. Her preferred option would be a second referendum, pitting a remain option against the latest deal Brussels has agreed to, but short of that she wants MPs to have more time to scrutinise Boris Johnson’s proposal and expressed concern the process is being rushed today. Our MPs should have longer than two hours of debate to look at a 500-page document. The march will begin at noon on Park Lane near Speakers’ Corner, proceed through Mayfair and St James and end in Parliament Square outside the House of Commons. The People’s Vote campaign estimates hundreds of thousands will be at the march. The all-time record for a UK protest was the 2003 demonstration against the Iraq war, which was claimed to be close to 2m. “This Brexit crisis has now come down to a simple question about whether we live in a democracy: can we allow Boris Johnson to force no-deal – or another vicious form of Brexit – on our country, without all of us having our voice heard?” the organisers’ website said ahead of the rally. Speakers will include shadow chancellor John McDonnell and actor Patrick Stewart. The parliamentary vote is set to be nail-bitingly close. Without a majority the prime minister has to assemble a coalition of MPs to vote for his Brexit deal. Here’s the maths from the FT Philip Georgiadis 13 HOURS AGO Government calls on Letwin to drop amendment Stephen Barclay, the Brexit secretary, has called on Oliver Letwin to withdraw his amendment. Mr Barclay said the amendment would “render today’s vote meaningless.” “It would cause further delay when our country and our businesses want an end to the uncertainty.” Mr Lewtin was unmoved following the plea. Nick Boles, the former conservative and now independent MP, tweeted a few moments ago that speculation Mr Letwin could pull his amendment is baseless. “He will forgive me for observing that there is more chance of him being called up to the England rugby team,” he said. Philip Georgiadis 13 HOURS AGO The government’s latest thinking: This has been a confusing morning at Westminster. Here is the latest on the government’s thinking from the FT’s Whitehall editor James Blitz: The government’s plans for a historic ‘Meaningful Vote’ on the Johnson deal have been undermined by Oliver Letwin’s amendment which insists that support for the pact is withheld until accompanying legislation is fully on the statute book. We need to see this afternoon whether the Letwin amendment will pass. But after a briefing from Number 10 officials this morning, this seems to be how Mr Johnson is planning to take things forward: 1. The Letwin amendment will be put to the Commons this afternoon ahead of the Meaningful Vote. If it passes, the Meaningful Vote on Johnson’s deal will fall because the Conservative whips will tell their MPs to go home or abstain. 2. Boris Johnson will be mandated by the Benn Act to seek an extension to Britain’s EU membership to January 31, 2020. It is unclear how Mr Johnson will respond but Number 10 has always said he will abide by the law. 3. The government will try and regain the initiative by bringing the Withdrawal Agreement Implementation Bill (WAIB) – which legislates the UK-EU pact – to the Commons on Tuesday. This will involve two key votes. 4. First, there will be a “programme motion” that tasks parliament to get the WAIB onto the statute book by October 31, the deadline Mr Johnson has set for Britain’s departure from the EU. 5. Second there will be a vote on the WAIB at its second reading stage on Tuesday. This will effectively become the landmark vote on whether the Commons wishes to go ahead with the Johnson deal or not. 6. If that is passed, the government may need to amend the WAIB to make clear there is no need for a Meaningful Vote. It will then rush to get the WAIB enacted by October 31 This seems to be how the government wants to play things. But caution: we need to see first if the Letwin motion passes this afternoon. This is by no means certain. If it doesn’t pass the critical Meaningful Vote on the Johnson deal really will take place tonight. Philip Georgiadis 12 HOURS AGO ERG support looks solid Mark Francois, deputy chair of the Conservative’s eurosceptic ERG wing, said that no members of the group spoke against the prime minister’s deal when they met this morning. Their support looks very solid. Sarah Provan 12 HOURS AGO Business leaders veer towards urging approval of Johnson’s deal – survey A majority of business leaders think that MPs should approve Boris Johnson’s deal, a survey of members of the Institute of Directors found. The poll revealed that 55 per cent of the 655 respondents surveyed between October 17-19 think MPs should agree to the deal while 41 per cent say the Commons should vote against it. A no-deal exit on October 31 was rejected by nine in 10 IoD members. There is no consensus among business leaders on what should happen in the event of an extension beyond October 31, although a general election is seen as the least negative. Jonathan Geldart, director general of the Institute of Directors, said: The Brexit process has been frustrating and wearying for our members. The paralysis of the current situation prevents directors from moving forward with plans for investment and growth. By no means is there unanimity among business leaders on the path ahead, but avoiding a disorderly exit at the end of the month comes out clearly as a pressing priority. There remain legitimate concerns around the changes agreed for Northern Ireland, which are no longer in the form of a backstop but now act as the starting point for its future relationship with the EU. We are pleased a hard border has been avoided. There are many more unanswered questions about how this will work. We urge the government to come forward with clear, concrete commitments around ensuring this does not lead to an erosion of the UK’s internal market over time. Stephen Barclay, the Brexit secretary, earlier today told Sky News: The key issue for MPs across all parties today is to listen to the voices of business, the Institute of Directors for example have made it clear it is time to back this deal. Sarah Provan 12 HOURS AGO Ingram Pinn’s illustration of the week Ingram, supreme as ever, shows Boris Johnson seeking to shove his deal through parliament: Philip Georgiadis 12 HOURS AGO A fractured parliament is making the arithmetic difficult It is still unclear if the government has the numbers to pass today’s vote, or indeed to see off the Letwin amendment. Complicating matters is how fractured this parliament has become. The government currently has a working majority of minus 43, and there have been 78 changes of allegiance in this parliament involving more than 50 different MPs, according to the Institute for Government. The IfG’s programme director Gavin Freeguard has tweeted some useful charts on the parliamentary arithmetic, including this graphic on how the parties have changed in the Commons since the 2017 election: Philip Georgiadis 12 HOURS AGO DUP meeting Boris Johnson Sebastian Payne and Laura Hughes in Westminster: Another wildcard has emerged in today’s parliamentary proceedings: the Democractic Unionist party, who are not supporting Mr Johnson’s Brexit deal, are currently meeting with the prime minister to discuss how they will vote on the Letwin amendment. If the party’s ten MPs decided to abstain or vote against the amendment, it would make it arithmetic much tighter. No decision has been made. DUP sources have said they are carefully considering how to vote on the Letwin amendment. Sarah Provan 12 HOURS AGO Brexit party decline would favour Tories, analysis reveals Conservatives, rather than the Labour party, are more likely to benefit in those Labour Leave-voting constituencies should the Brexit party become a spent force, an analysis of British Election Study data reveals. The analysis, by political scientist Abigail Lebrecht and the FT’s John Burn-Murdoch, follows reports that Tory officials were trying to persuade Labour MPs in Leave-voting seats that it was in their interests to support Boris Johnson’s deal. The officials were reported as saying that delivering Brexit would send Nigel Farage’s party into decline in their constituencies. The analysis however finds that, in seats where at least 60 per cent of voters are estimated to have backed Leave in the referendum on EU membership in 2016, two-thirds of 2019 Brexit party voters had voted Conservative at the previous general election, and 18 per cent had come from Labour. This suggests that if the Brexit party were to disappear from the ballot paper, the Conservatives would be boosted by receiving almost four times as many returning Brexit party voters as Labour. Adam Samson 12 HOURS AGO Where we stand on voting… Sebastian Payne reports: Some MPs have announced they are backing Mr Johnson’s Brexit deal while others have announced their opposition. Notably MP Labour Gareth Snell has said he is backing the prime minister, but Liberal Democrat Norman Lamb is not. Independent MP Jared O’Mara has been seen traveling to London and is expected to vote against the deal. As it stands, the FT’s analysis suggests there is a slender majority of three for his Brexit deal (notwithstanding the Letwin amendment): Philip Georgiadis 12 HOURS AGO Labour warn on ‘trapdoor to no-deal’ Keir Starmer has warned MPs that Boris Johnson’s deal is a “trapdoor to no-deal” at the end of the transition period, as the Irish backstop has now gone. The Labour shadow Brexit secretary said that if future trade talks are not successful then the UK could still crash out at the end of 2020, particularly as the Johnson government has indicated a willingness to diverge on standards from the EU. “Nobody should vote for this deal on the basis that it is a way to ensure that we do not leave at the end of 2020 on WTO terms.” He told MPs minded to trust Mr Johnson’s assurances on continued high standards on workers’ rights and the environment to look at the example of the DUP. “Those that are considering putting their trust in this PM need to reflect on how he has treated his supply and confidence partners. Promise, then burn.” Philip Georgiadis 11 HOURS AGO Letwin defends his amendment Oliver Letwin, whose amendment has thrown the government’s plan for a ‘meaningful vote’ into uncertainty, has told the Commons it exists as an insurance policy against a no-deal exit on October 31 if future withdrawal legislation fails. The amendment would withhold formal parliamentary approval for Mr Johnson’s new Brexit deal, forcing the prime minister to seek an extension to the Article 50 exit process. Sir Oliver said that while he supports the deal, votes on future legislation “will be tight.” He said he understands the government’s logic to try to push any waverers into ‘a ‘deal or no deal’ choice, but that “I do not believe it is responsible to put the nation at risk by making that threat.” Philip Georgiadis 11 HOURS AGO Former prime minister Theresa May backs deal Former prime minister Theresa May has made an intervention. She was very loyal to her successor’s deal. It is noticeable that MPs largely listened to her quietly and respectfully, which has not been a regular feature of Commons debate in recent week. “I have a distinct sense of déjà vu,” she said. She laughed at a shout of “rebel”, and added: “I intend to rebel against all of those who do not intend to deliver Brexit.” If parliament does not wish to back the deal then “it is guilty of the most egregious con trick on the British people,” she said. “If you don’t want no deal you have to vote for a deal…if you want this country to move forward then vote for this deal today” Philip Georgiadis 11 HOURS AGO Ken Clarke backs deal Ken Clarke – the Europhile former senior Conservative MP who had the whip withdrawn by the Johnson government – has backed this “very bad deal”. “I hoped I would never be driven…to finally deciding my choice between no-deal and a bad deal,” he said. “It is all to be played for” over the future relationship during the transition period, he said, as he confirmed he would vote for the deal in order to avoid a no-deal exit. Sarah Provan 11 HOURS AGO ‘Brexit has become a cult’, says protester Thousands of demonstrators waving EU flags and pro-EU banners to stop Brexit have rammed into the streets now the march in favour of a second referendum has begun its slow progress from Marble Arch towards Parliament Square in central London. Jane Fitzgerald, down from Blackpool for the day and wrapped in an EU flag, thinks this is her “last chance to make my voice heard”, reports George Steer from the protest. Asked what she would say to Boris Johnson if she had the chance: “I’d tell him to do what’s best for the country rather than his career.” “Brexit has become a cult,” Ms Fitzgerald says. David Atkins, from Ipswich, says he doesn’t think a second referendum could divide the country “any more than it already is”. “If leave were to win a second vote, I’d probably emigrate,” he adds. Theresa May in the House of Commons said this of the demand for a second referendum: You cannot have a second referendum simply because some don’t agree with the result of the first I don’t like referenda but if you have one you should abide by the result that people have given you. Philip Georgiadis 11 HOURS AGO DUP’s Letwin amendment votes key How the DUP votes on the Letwin amendment could swing it either way. The party’s Sammy Wilson has outlined their strategy, hinting the DUP could either back the amendment or use their votes as leverage to influence the government’s plans towards Northern Ireland. He said: “We would be failing in our duty if we do not use every strategy which is available to try and get guarantees, changes and alterations which will safeguard the interests of the UK and our constituents.” Adam Samson 10 HOURS AGO Eurosceptic Bill Cash backs Johnson’s deal Bill Cash, a long-standing Eurosceptic, is backing Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal. As a Eurosceptic of 30 years standing, Downing Street will be delighted he is on board. The number of rebellious right wing Tories is likely to be very low now. Sarah Provan 10 HOURS AGO Thousands against Brexit file into Parliament Square Crowds in a sea of the EU’s blue and yellow-starred flags are gathering in Parliament Square but the atmosphere on the march is rather subdued, nervous even, reports George Steer. Police anticipate close to a million people on the streets. The national anthem is booming out on the loudspeakers, with very few joining in. Arguments break out in the shadow of the House of Commons, where the key debate continues on Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal, as a group of impassioned remainers are engaged in a shouting match with a man draped in a Union Jack flag. Among other demonstrators, Dario Mazzola, an Italian who has been living in London for 20 years, calls the first referendum “fraudulent”, reports George Steer. After a boisterous rendition of the Remainers’ song “bollocks to Brexit”, Mr Mazzola says: If we allow lies to infiltrate democracy, it’s no longer a democracy. I have two British kids and I’m here for them Allan Carruthers, a retired civil servant who describes himself as an “inveterate remainer” and on the march for his grandchildren, says: “It couldn’t be at a more critical point,” nodding to the palace of Westminster which is 100m away, reports Jennifer Thompson. A second referendum is the only way to save our sanity Philip Georgiadis 10 HOURS AGO MPs voting on Letwin amendment MPs have begun voting on the Letwin amendment. This is a key moment in the day, and the result will decide whether we then move on to a genuinely ‘meaningful vote’ on the Brexit deal. If the amendment is passed, rebellious MPs will have successfully torpedoed Boris Johnson’s strategy in a bid to allow greater scrutiny of the legislation and avoid what they see as the fresh danger of a no-deal exit. If it fails, a ‘meaningful’ vote on the deal is still on. Adam Samson 10 HOURS AGO DUP to back Letwin DUP officials have told the FT they will back the Letwin amendment, reports Laura Hughes. Philip Georgiadis 10 HOURS AGO Conservative MP: Looks like Letwin amendment has passed A downbeat Andrew Percy, Tory MP, tells Sky News it looks like the Letwin amendment has passed. The result has not yet been announced. Asked what happened next, he replied: “I have absolutely no idea.” Philip Georgiadis 10 HOURS AGO Letwin amendment passes The Letwin amendment has passed, throwing the government’s plans into disarray. MPs have voted to delay the decisive Brexit vote. Philip Georgiadis 9 HOURS AGO Boris Johnson responds to Letwin amendment The prime minister is on his feet. “Alas the opportunity to have a meaningful vote has effectively been passed,” he said. “I will not negotiate a delay with the EU, and neither does the law compel me to.” The prime minister did not specifically rule out sending the letter to the EU regarding an extension, as the Benn act requires, however. Mr Johnson said he will introduce legislation supporting his Brexit deal next week, and tell the EU a further delay would be bad for the UK and EU. Philip Georgiadis 9 HOURS AGO Johnson: Brexit policy remains unchanged “Since I became prime minister I have said we must get Brexit done. That policy remains unchanged,” the prime minister said. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the prime minister must comply with the law – referring to the Benn Act – and ask the EU for an extension. “We believe that ultimately the people must have the final say on Brexit,” Jeremy Corbyn said. Sarah Provan 9 HOURS AGO Lib Dem leader says voters deserve a final say on Brexit Jo Swinson, leader of the Liberal Democrats, says the people of the country and those “who are outside this building right now deserve a final say”, in a reference to the demonstrators who are gathering in Parliament Square. She suggests allowing the prime minister time to go and deliver a letter to request an extension. “It is not my intention to suspend the sitting,” says the Speaker of the House John Bercow. Philip Georgiadis 9 HOURS AGO What is the Benn Act? The Benn Act now comes into play, given that MPs will not have the chance to confirm the Brexit deal later today. The act is the anti-no deal legislation that compels the prime minister to seek a three-month extension to Article 50 if he cannot get a Brexit deal agreed by the end of today. Mr Johnson has said he will not “negotiate” a delay, but did not mention sending the letter. The Liberal Democrats’ Chuka Umanna is on Sky now: He will send the letter in my view, because the government has given undertakings to a Scottish court, and if he does not then he will be in contempt of court… He can send the letter which says I want an extension, while at the same time saying this is at the behest of parliament and not my actual view. But the EU knows there is no good agreeing anything with a prime minister that cannot get through out parliament.” Philip Georgiadis 9 HOURS AGO ‘A decent result for the pound’ Paul Dales, chief UK economist at Capital Economics, said the effective abandonment of today’s ‘meaningful vote’ is a “decent result” for the British economy and the pound. The decision by Parliament to essentially postpone a meaningful vote on Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal until after a delay to Brexit has been requested is a decent result for the economy and the pound as it makes a no deal Brexit on 31st October even less likely. That said, it does extend the uncertainty that has been hampering growth for a least a bit longer. Philip Georgiadis 9 HOURS AGO What next? Sir Oliver Letwin’s amendment, which turned Saturday’s meaningful vote on the deal into a meaningless vote, passed by a margin of 16 votes, writes Sebastian Payne in Westminster: The prime minister’s plans are thrown into disarray once again. Instead of gaining parliamentary approval of his deal, we are once again in Brexit limbo. What happens next? • Because no meaningful vote has passed by 11pm tonight, Mr Johnson is compelled by the Benn Act to request another delay until January 31 2020. • The prime minister’s spokesperson has said he will comply with the law – which means he is expected to write the letter to the EU, as per the terms of the legislation. But Mr Johnson made it clear in the Commons he will not engage with the process to negotiate it. • The government could end up court next week if it fails to comply with the terms of the Benn Act. • Meanwhile the prime minister is expected to bring forward Brexit legislation in an effort to head off the need for any delay. Mr Johnson is expected to introduce a Commons motion on Monday to lay out the terms for the vote, and push for a significant vote on withdrawal legislation on Tuesday. • If No 10 can win the second reading of the Withdrawal Act, it believes this will take the place of a meaningful vote and the government can push ahead with trying to pass legislation to leave the EU by October 31. All the while, the bickering about a Brexit delay goes on. Adam Samson 9 HOURS AGO EU says it is up to UK to inform bloc of next steps The FT’s Mehreen Khan has the initial reaction out of Brussels: “The European Commission takes note of the vote in the House of Commons today on the so-called #Letwin Amendment meaning that the #WithdrawalAgreement itself was not put to vote today. It will be for the UK government to inform us about the next steps as soon as possible,” writes Mina Andreeva, a Commission spokesperson, on Twitter. Philip Georgiadis 9 HOURS AGO Next steps in Brussels Mehreen Khan in Brussels writes: EU27 ambassadors are still due to meet tomorrow at 09:30. It was scheduled as a meeting to discuss the fallout from any meaningful vote and plans for the European Parliament to ratify the deal. But the fresh uncertainty means all is on hold. The European Parliament will not ratify a deal until the Commons passes all the Withdrawal legislation. Michel Barnier will meet MEPs in Strasbourg on Monday at 15:00 CET. One diplomat said today’s Letwin amendment creates “confusion” over the time left for the EU to ratify a deal. The European Parliament’s Brexit lead Guy Verhofstadt said: “Whatever happens next, the marches outside the Parliament show just how important a close EU – UK future relationship is.” Philip Georgiadis 9 HOURS AGO ‘No EU appetite’ for more negotiations A European diplomat tells Mehreen Khan: “Any changes would need to get European Council approval, and we have no appetite to have a third round of negotiations with the British government to make another uncertain deal”. Adam Samson 9 HOURS AGO Breakdown of votes on Letwin amendment Steve Bernard, Martin Stabe and Sebastian Payne have analysed this afternoon’s vote on the Letwin amendment, which has delayed the key vote on Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal. Philip Georgiadis 8 HOURS AGO Conservatives: PM ‘will not ask for a delay’ The Conservative party has said in a tweet that the prime minister “will not ask for a delay.” “He will tell EU leaders there should be no more delays and we should get Brexit done on October 31st with our new deal so the country can move on.” Philip Georgiadis 8 HOURS AGO Parliament has adjourned • ‘Super Saturday’ in the House of Commons never did deliver a so-called meaningful vote on Boris Johnson’s new Brexit deal. • Instead, MPs grasped the opportunity to frustrate the prime minister as they opted by 322 to 306 to back a motion tabled by former Tory cabinet minister Oliver Letwin to put the vote on hold. • Boris Johnson is now compelled to send a letter to request an extension of the UK’s EU membership, although the prime minister injected uncertainty by telling MPs “I will not negotiate a delay.” • There was also uncertainty in the Commons as to the legislative way forward next week, but the government is now expected to force another vote on his Brexit deal next Tuesday.