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You can watch the Debate live on YouTube, now underway.

Short Extension OK

Letwin to Back Johnson's Timetable

Reference to the "programme motion” below refer to the timetable Johnson wants.

He has the Withdrawal Agreement votes but not the timetable and has threatened to pull the bill if there is a long extension.

Political Guess

Debate Underway

The debate is underway in Parliament. The Guardian Live has details.

Free Vote

Jim Fitzpatrick, the MP for Poplar and Limehouse, asks Corbyn for reassurance that Labour members “who exercise their conscience this evening and don’t follow the whip, will not have that whip removed any more than he had it removed when he exercised his conscience”.

Corbyn says he believes in the power of persuasion, but doesn’t directly answer the question. “I would like to persuade my honourable friend,” he says. “Come with us. Vote against this bill and vote against the programme motion.”

Johnson's Threat

"I will in no way allow months more of this. If parliament refuses to allow Brexit to happen and instead gets its way and decided to delay everything until January or possibly longer, in those circumstances [the government cannot] continue with this ... I must say that the bill will have to be pulled and we will have to go forward to a general election. I will argue at that election: ‘Let’s get Brexit done’. And the leader of the opposition will make his case to spend 2020 having two referendums – one on Brexit and one on Scotland …"

"Mr Speaker, there is another path. That is to accept, as I have done, that this deal does not give us everything that we want. And all of us can find clauses and provisions to which we can [object], as we can in any compromise. But it also gives us the opportunity to conclude that there is no dishonour in setting aside the entirely legitimate desire to deliver the perfect deal in the interest of seizing the great deal that is now within our grasp."

"They said that we couldn’t change the withdrawal agreement in the 90 days that we had. They said that we’d never get rid of the backstop. They said we wouldn’t be able to get a new deal. We did get a new deal. We got a great deal ... And we will get a great new free trade agreement and a new partnership for our country. That is the project that lies before us."

Johnson's Brother

The prime minister’s brother, Jo Johnson, stands up and says: “I congratulate the prime minister on getting a deal. I never doubted it for a minute.” (He resigned over it, remember.) He asks for reassurance that after the bill has received royal assent, the prime minister will work tirelessly to get the closest possible relationship with the EU over science and research funding.

“I thank my honourable friend, and brother,” says the PM, before going on to reassure him.


The Green MP Caroline Lucas asks about “the trapdoor” in the deal where if the UK hasn’t negotiated an arrangement with the EU by the end of next year, we will “crash out”. Johnson says there will be no crashing out “because we will negotiate a great new friendship and partnership”.

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That answer may very well tip the balance in favor of Johnson's programme motion.

Johnson says there will be no checks on goods between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, just some “light touch measures”. “The most important point is that even these measures automatically dissolve unless the majority of Stormont vote to keep them,” he says.


Labour’s Don Valley MP, Caroline Flint, who has said she will vote for the WAB, asks for reassurance that the bill will protect the climate emergency. Johnson says: “I can make that commitment.” He says that if the EU brings forward new environmental legislation, parliament will be given the opportunity to bring forward laws that mirror it.

Worker's Rights

Tracy Brabin, the Labour MP in Batley and Spen, raises the issue of workers’ rights. Johnson acknowledges that people need reassurance that the UK will not regress on the issue. He says that if the EU decides to introduce new protections, the UK parliament will automatically consider introducing them too. “In essence, it takes back to this house the powers to decide these matters,” he says. Johnson adds that we shouldn’t lack confidence in “our collective ability” to use these new powers for the public good.

Fishing Rights

Owen Paterson, the Tory MP for North Shropshire, asks for a “categorical assurance” that we will not use our fish stocks as a bargaining chip in future negotiations. “I can confirm that we will take back 100% control of the spectacular marine wealth of this country,” says Johnson.

Economic Impacts

Asked by Labour’s Catherine McKinnell about the government’s economic impact assessments, he says that getting the deal done would “unleash a great tide of investment” and a “powerful shot in the arm” for the country. Johnson says the deal “is the biggest restoration of sovereignty in our history”.

On every front, Johnson is saying the things he needs to for passage.

The Votes

That Tweet was three hours ago. Everything above is newer.

With Letwin on board, Johnson may only need to pick up one or two more votes for his Programme Motion.

If not, he will seek elections.

That threat could backfire, but it did pick up Letwin.

Corbyn granted a free vote on the Withdrawal Agreement, perhaps he doesn't on the programme motion.


This one is close. But comments that the EU would "never" offer a short extension are surely misplaced. And Johnson left himself an out.

Besides, 10 days is enough, and if it isn't the EU can come back with another 10 days.

My guess, the WA passes easily and the programme motion by 1-2 votes.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock