Boris Johnson’s “do or die” pledge to deliver Brexit on October 31 has been dealt a hammer blow after MPs voted to reject his plan to force it through the Commons in just three days.
The House voted by 322 to 308 against the programme motion which would have required the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) to clear all its Commons stages by the end of Thursday.
Just minutes earlier MPs had voted by 329 votes to 299, majority 30, to approve the Bill in principle – the first time the Commons has been prepared to back any Brexit deal put before it.
However they were not prepared to accept the tight timetable demanded by the Government in a bid to ensure there was no further delay to Britain’s departure from the EU.
Earlier, Mr Johnson warned he would pull the whole Bill and go for a general election if they rejected his timetable and decided to “delay everything until January or even longer”.
Mr Johnson has won just two of 12 votes in Parliament since he became Prime Minister in July.
Addressing MPs moments after the defeat, the Prime Minister said the Government will pause the passage of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill until the EU has said what it will do next.
He told MPs: “I will speak to EU member states about their intentions,” adding: “Until they have reached a decision we will pause this legislation.”
He added: “Let me be clear. Our policy remains that we should not delay, that we should leave the EU on October 31 and that is what I will say to the EU and I will report back to the House.
“And one way or another we will leave the EU with this deal, to which this House has just given its assent.
“And I thank members across the House for that hard-won agreement.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn offered to work with Mr Johnson to set a “reasonable” timetable.
He said: “Tonight the House has refused to be bounced into debating a hugely significant piece of legislation in just two days with barely any notice and analysis of the economic impact of this Bill.
“The Prime Minister is the author of his own misfortune. So I make this offer to him tonight.
“Work with us, all of us to agree a reasonable timetable, and I suspect this House will vote to debate, scrutinise and, I hope, commend the detail of this Bill. That would be the sensible way forward, and that is the offer I make on behalf of the opposition tonight.”