Boris Johnson has urged MPs to back his Brexit deal telling them that the time had come to heal the rift in British politics over the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
As Parliament sat for the first time on a Saturday in 37 years, the Prime Minister said the agreement he has struck with Brussels would allow the UK to leave “whole and entire” on October 31.
However he faces another hurdle with opposition MPs threatening to vote for an amendment withholding approval until legislation to implement the deal is in place.
Sir Oliver Letwin, the former Cabinet minister who had the Tory whip withdrawn after rebelling over Brexit, said it was an “insurance policy” to prevent Britain “crashing out” without a deal on October 31.
But Government sources reportedly warned that if it passed would render the proceedings meaningless and they would simply send Tory MPs home.
After Commons Speaker John Bercow confirmed that he had selected Sir Oliver’s amendment for debate, Mr Johnson appealed to MPs to reject it.
“This is momentous occasion for our country and our Parliament,” he said.
“It would be a great shame if the opportunity to have a meaningful vote, which is what I believe this House has been convoked to do, were to be taken away from us.”
Mr Johnson called for MPs to reconcile their differences over Brexit.
He told MPs: “The House will need no reminding that this is the second deal and the fourth vote, three-and-a-half years after the nation voted for Brexit.
“And during those years friendships have been strained, families divided and the attention of this House consumed by a single issue that has at times felt incapable of resolution.
“But I hope that this is the moment when we can finally achieve that resolution and reconcile the instincts that compete within us.”
The vote appears to be on a knife edge, with Mr Johnson’s one-time allies in the DUP threatening to vote against it.
The Prime Minister received an early boost when Steve Baker, the leader of the pro-Brexit Tory European Research Group, said he expected members “overwhelmingly” to back the deal.
However, former chancellor Philip Hammond said that he would be among the MPs backing the Letwin amendment.
“The Letwin amendment gives us an insurance policy that prevents us having to look at this Bill against the constant threat of the Government to pull the plug and crash us out on October 31,” he told the BBC.
“We have to remove any risk of leaving on October 31 with no deal.”
Jeremy Corbyn said Labour could not back a deal that was even worse than Theresa May’s deal which was rejected three times by MPs.
“It is not a good deal for our country and future generations who will feel the impact. It should be voted down,” he said.
“I totally understand the frustration and the fatigue across the country and in this House.
“But we simply cannot vote for a deal that is even worse than the one this House rejected three times.”