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Brexit: Speaker may block PM's push for Commons vote on his deal

21 October

Boris Johnson is set for a showdown with Commons Speaker John Bercow today, with the prime minister expected to push for a so-called "meaningful vote" on his Brexit deal.

It is possible that Mr Bercow could block the government's move, and rule that the vote cannot be repeated so soon because it effectively happened on Saturday.
He is expected to make a ruling at around 3.30pm.
Last week, the Speaker had told MPs that the "apparent purpose" of Monday's vote was to "invalidate or obviate" the effect of an amendment by Sir Oliver Letwin, which means that MPs will withhold their approval for Mr Johnson's deal unless and until he has passed all necessary legislation to implement it.
It comes after:

  • The PM secured a new Brexit deal with Brussels at an EU summit on Thursday
  • Mr Johnson was set to put it to a vote in the Commons on Saturday - before the Letwin amendment was passed
  • He then requested a three-month delay to Brexit - which he was required to do so under legislation passed by MPs to avoid a no-deal scenario law - but at the same time made clear to Brussels that he thought another extension would be a mistake
Downing Street has said that if the vote goes ahead, it will pull it in the event that any amendments are selected.
The PM's official spokesman said this would "render the vote pointless".
In the wake of Saturday's setback, the government has also put on hold a vote on the Queen's Speech - its legislative agenda which was set out at the state opening of parliament last week.
There have been suggestions that the the PM could be heading for a defeat in this vote, given he lacks a majority. If so, it would be the first time a government had been defeated on a Queen's Speech since the 1920s.
If Mr Bercow does prevent Mr Johnson from having a meaningful vote in the Commons, the focus will switch to the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, which the government has confirmed it will introduce later.
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There will be a vote on its second reading tomorrow.
The Withdrawal Agreement Bill is the legislation which enshrines the Brexit deal into UK law.
Ministers have insisted that they have the numbers to push this agreement through the Commons, but the arithmetic in parliament appears to be very tight.
A government source told the PA news agency: "Parliament needs a straight up-and-down vote on the deal… or do they want to frustrate and cancel Brexit altogether?
"We cannot allow parliament's letter to lead to parliament's delay."
Labour has warned it is going to try to hijack the legislation by putting down amendments for a second Brexit referendum and a customs union with the EU.
Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, has also indicated that the opposition could back the Withdrawal Agreement Bill if it was put to voters in a national poll against an option to Remain.
All of this comes as reports suggest that the EU is considering whether to offer the UK a "flexible extension" to the Brexit deadline - enabling the country to leave the trading bloc whenever an agreement has been secured.
Mr Johnson has continued to insist that the UK will leave the EU on 31 October, but with just 10 days to go until this "do or die" deadline, the clock is ticking.
The PM was forced to abandon plans for a meaningful vote on Saturday after Sir Oliver Letwin's amendment passed - and as a result, he had to write to European Council President Donald Tusk to request a three-month extension to the Brexit negotiating period until 31 January 2020.
Although Mr Johnson did fulfil this legal obligation, he sent a second letter that warned a further delay to Brexit would be "deeply corrosive" for both the UK and the EU.
Speaking to Sky News' Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme, shadow chancellor John McDonnell accused the prime minister of "behaving like a spoilt brat".
Looking ahead to today's events in Westminster, Sky's political correspondent Lewis Goodall said: "It always does seem to be a crucial week for the government and the Brexit deal, but I think the next few days really will be pivotal.
"Despite the fact that the government wants to bring back a meaningful vote today, they will not in all likelihood be allowed to do so.
"This is because the Speaker will likely get up at 3.30pm and say that, as a result of the fact that the House of Commons has already made a decision on this via the Letwin amendment, there cannot be a meaningful vote until that legislation has been carried out.
"The problem then is that, once you get looking into the legislation, it can be amended in every way imaginable."

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PM letter says he does not want Brexit extension - what happens next?

21 October

Following Boris Johnson's defeat in a Commons vote on an amendment over his new Brexit plan, the prime minister has sent two letters to European Council President Donald Tusk.

The first was an unsigned letter requesting a delay to Brexit which he was obliged to send under the Benn Act, after the Letwin amendment on Saturday was supported by a majority of MPs.
The second letter was signed by Mr Johnson and explained why the government did not actually want an extension and that a delay would be a mistake.
There was also an explanatory letter from the UK's ambassador to the EU, Sir Tim Barrow, sent to Jeppe Tranholm-Mikkelsen, the Secretary-General of the Council of the European Union.
MPs on Saturday voted not to give their approval to the prime minister's Brexit deal until he has passed all necessary legislation.
The result forced Mr Johnson to seek an extension to the Article 50 negotiating period, possibly delaying Brexit until 31 January 2020.
Mr Tusk confirmed late on Saturday night that he had received a letter from Mr Johnson asking for an extension and would consult EU leaders "on how to react".
So what happens now?
TODAY
The government will make a second attempt to have a meaningful vote on the prime minister's Brexit deal.
Such a vote is required under the terms of last year's EU Withdrawal Act in order for parliament to give its approval to a withdrawal agreement and the political declaration, which sets out the framework for the future UK-EU relationship.
However, it is not clear whether the government will be permitted to hold such a vote.
House of Commons Speaker John Bercow told MPs the "apparent purpose" of Monday's vote was to "invalidate or obviate the effect" of Sir Oliver's amendment.
He said he would provide a ruling on whether to grant such a vote after he had "reflected on this matter".
It has been suggested that if the government did win a meaningful vote on the Brexit deal today, the prime minister could withdraw a request for an Article 50 extension.
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LATER IN THE WEEK
The prime minister told MPs he will next week "introduce the legislation needed for us to leave the EU with our new deal on 31 October".
This will be a withdrawal agreement bill, which is needed to put the Brexit deal into UK law.
Opposition MPs could attempt to frustrate the prime minister's Brexit strategy by amending the bill to include provisions for membership of the EU single market, customs union or even attaching a condition for a second EU referendum.
Labour could table their own amendment for a "confirmatory referendum" on the Brexit deal.
The government will also fear losing a vote on the timetable for the legislation, which could thwart their plans to get the legislation passed in time for 31 October.
THE EU SAYS YES OR NO TO A FRESH BREXIT DELAY
The prime minister has requested an Article 50 extension, but it will only be accepted if all 27 EU member states approve it.
This means each and every EU country has a veto on whether to grant an extension.
French President Emmanuel Macron has been the most sceptical about the need for a new Brexit delay, but it's unclear whether he would actually block a fresh extension.
His office revealed he had "signalled a delay would be in no one's interest", in a conversation with Mr Johnson.
Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney reiterated Dublin's stance that a Brexit delay is "preferable" to a no-deal Brexit, although he also stressed all other EU member states would need to unanimously back an extension for it to be granted.
"Any one prime minister can prevent that and I think the EU wants to see certainty and an end to endless negotiation and speculation, so I think a request for an extension is not straightforward," he added.
31 OCTOBER
The prime minister still hopes this will be the day the UK leaves the EU.
And, if he passes the necessary Brexit legislation by this date, it could still be the case.

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Tributes paid to 'best friends' stabbed to death at Milton Keynes house party

21 October

Tributes are being paid to two 17-year-old boys stabbed to death at a house party in Milton Keynes.

The victims have been named as Dom Ansah and Ben Gillham-Rice.
Two cousins of the boys laid flowers outside the house where they were killed and said: "Many, many people's hearts are broken."
One of the cousins, who did not want to be named, said: "He's come here with his long-time best friend since childhood, comes to a party and both of their lives just got ripped away from them.
"He was just so respectful to, like, his family and friends."
Another tribute on Facebook read: "Heart broken!! too loose theses boys I've grown up with my family, my little cousin! Words don't describe. Gone far far to soon (sic)!"
One of the boys died at the scene and the other was taken to hospital but died in the early hours of Sunday.
A double murder investigation is under way but no arrests have been made.
On Sunday, two forensic officers were seen inspecting an object on the driveway of a house in Archford Croft and there appeared to be blood smeared on the front door.
A neighbour said she heard a "commotion" and screaming shortly before midnight on the night of the stabbings.
"The police were here pretty quick," she said.
Another neighbour told BBC News she believed the gathering was a party for a teenage girl living in the house.
Others said they had seen a birthday banner hanging on the door.
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Detective Chief Superintendent Ian Hunter said about 15 to 20 people were at the party and that "the people directly involved in this incident are all likely to have known each other".
Another neighbour living in an adjacent street said she had known the boys.
"This gang of kids have been hanging around Archford Croft - it's all gang-related," she said.
"We do know that there was a house party at the time, not here but another part of Emerson. I think it's just because there was a house party and then the trouble started from there."
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Meghan: Friends told me not to marry Harry because of tabloid press

21 October

The Duchess of Sussex says British friends told her not to marry Prince Harry because the tabloid press would "destroy" her life.

Speaking in a TV documentary, Meghan said she never thought being part of the Royal Family would be "easy but I thought it would be fair".
A perceived lack of fairness was "hard to reconcile but (I) just take each day as it comes", she said.
When she first met Harry her "friends were really happy because I was so happy", the duchess explained.
But British friends cautioned: "'I'm sure he's great but you shouldn't do it because the British tabloids will destroy your life'."
Meghan said that "in all fairness I had no idea, which probably sounds difficult to understand".
As an American, she "didn't get it".
The former actress said she had told "H - that is what I call him - it's not enough to just survive something", adding: "That's not the point of life. You have got to thrive."
Prince Harry, answering a question about rumours of a rift between himself and the Duke of Cambridge, said he and his brother are "on different paths" and have "good days" and "bad days".
Earlier this year, Harry and Meghan split from their joint charity with William and Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge.
The Duke of Sussex said "inevitably stuff happens" - particularly with such a high-profile role and a family that lives under pressure.
He told the ITV documentary Harry & Meghan: An African Journey: "We are brothers. We will always be brothers.
"We are certainly on different paths at the moment but I will always be there for him as I know he will always be there for me.
"We don't see each other as much as we used to because we are so busy but I love him dearly.
"The majority of the stuff is created out of nothing but as brothers, you know, you have good days, you have bad days."
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After the split was announced earlier this year, sources denied any feud - saying the move was "largely about preparing both couples for their future roles, which are obviously on divergent tracks".
The final day of the Africa tour was overshadowed by Harry's attack on the British tabloid press, in which he heavily criticised certain sections of the media for conducting what he called a "ruthless campaign" against his wife.
Harry described the way he deals with the pressures of his life as being a matter of "constant management".
He said: "Part of this job, and part of any job, like everybody, is putting on a brave face and turning a cheek to a lot of the stuff, but again, for me and again for my wife, of course there is a lot of stuff that hurts, especially when the majority of it is untrue.
"But all we need to do is focus on being real, and focus on being the people that we are, and standing up for what we believe in.
"I will not be bullied into playing a game that killed my mum."
Meghan told the programme about her feelings of vulnerability during her pregnancy and as a new mother amid intense media scrutiny, and said "not many people have asked if I'm OK".

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Claim of kidnap plot as Julian Assange denied extradition delay

21 October

Julian Assange's lawyer has accused the US of attempting to "kidnap and harm" the WikiLeaks founder, as he was denied a delay in his extradition.

Mark Summers QC claimed the US had "intruded" on conversations between Assange and his lawyers while he was in the Ecuadorian embassy and the intrusions included "hooded men breaking into offices".
The WikiLeaks founder appeared in a London court for a hearing on whether he should be extradited to the US to face spying charges.
He reportedly told a hearing earlier this year that he feared he would be kidnapped by the US.
Mr Summers said today those fears are among "multiplicitous" issues that meant the case should be delayed for three months.
He said the case has many facets and will require a "mammoth" amount of planning.
But Judge Vanessa Baraitser denied the request to delay proceedings, meaning the full hearing will be set for five days in February.
Appearing in court today, Assange was clean-shaven and hesitated when asked to confirm his name and date of birth.
He raised his fist in a defiant gesture to acknowledge his supporters in the public gallery, who included former London mayor Ken Livingstone.
Outside the court, more supporters carried placards calling for Assange to be released.
The 48-year-old is accused by the US of conspiring to hack into a classified government computer.
He claims he is a journalist entitled to First Amendment protection.
In June, then-home secretary Sajid Javid signed an order allowing Assange to be extradited to the US.
He has been held in Belmarsh Prison on the outskirts of London while the extradition case is being prepared.
The WikiLeaks founder was due to be released on 22 September but was held for longer because of "substantial grounds" for believing he would abscond.
Assange was jailed for 50 weeks in the UK in May after he skipped bail by seeking asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he was wanted in connection with sexual offence allegations.
He was dragged out of the embassy by police in April after Ecuador revoked his political asylum.
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