MPs set for historic vote on Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal as PM faces fresh attempt to force extension
MPs will cast their verdict on Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal on Saturday - as the Prime Minister faces a fresh attempt to force him to delay the UK's exit from the EU.
An extraordinary weekend sitting of both Houses of Parliament will see MPs asked to vote on the agreement Mr Johnson struck with Brussels.
But the PM is facing a renewed attempt to force him to ask for a delay if MPs throw their weight behind an amendment from former Conservative MP Sir Oliver Letwin.
Speaking ahead of the knife-edge vote, the Prime Minister said there was a "very clear case for all of us to get this done".
And he told ITV News: "I think the sigh of relief that would go up, not just around Britain, but around the world, would be very, very large [and] passionate.
"But also think it is a moment of great optimism.
"Because this is a chance for us to show that we believe in ourselves, show that we trust our democracy, show that we trust the people - they made a judgement, we are going to respect it, we are going to get it done.
"And then we are going to work with our European friends to build a new partnership that is full of promise and excitement."
Under the terms of the Benn Act passed last month, Mr Johnson must ask the EU for an extension if he has not managed to get his deal through Parliament by 11pm on Saturday.
But MPs opposed to a no-deal Brexit are concerned that a loophole in that law could still allow a no-deal exit to go ahead even if the Commons backs the agreement.
That is because the Government would only have until the end of the month to enact the legislation needed to get the UK out with a deal.
Sir Oliver - who lost the Conservative whip after backing the Benn Act - has tabled an amendment that he hopes will act as an "insurance policy" to avoid a no-deal departure.
If passed, it would force the Prime Minister to ask Brussels for an extension to the 31 October deadline until every piece of legislation needed to make Brexit happen has passed through the Commons.
But it would also mean that MPs were withholding formal approval of Mr Johnson's deal, inserting fresh confusion into the process.
Sir Oliver said: "In short, my aim is to ensure that Boris’s deal succeeds, but that we have an insurance policy which prevents the UK from crashing out on 31 October by mistake if something goes wrong during the passage of the implementing legislation."
A source close to the former minister said: "There is no good reason for not seeking an extension at this point: for those who believe that the 'threat' of no-deal was necessary to reach a deal with the EU, then surely now that the deal has been negotiated with the EU, that threat is no longer needed."
And they added that the extension - which could be terminated once a deal is fully ratified by MPs - could act as a "safeguard" against a no-deal.
The dramatic Commons day - the first weekend sitting of Parliament since the Falklands war - will begin at 9:30am, with Speaker John Bercow expected to reveal which amendments have been chosen for debate before the PM urges MPs to get behind his agreement.
A debate on the pact will then kick off and the vote on the deal - as well as a possible string of amendments - is not expected expected before 2:30pm.