What will happen on ‘Super Saturday’ when MPs discuss Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal?

MPs take the rare step of sitting in the House of Commons on Saturday to debate the Brexit deal Prime Minister Boris Johnson has brokered with the European Union.

Friday, 18th October 2019, 5:39 pm
Updated Friday, 18th October 2019, 7:33 pm
Parliament meets on October 19 for only the fifth Saturday since the start of the Second World War in 1939.
Parliament meets on October 19 for only the fifth Saturday since the start of the Second World War in 1939.

Here is a rundown of what is expected to happen on what is dubbed “Super Saturday”.

What is "Super Saturday" and why does it matter?

The House of Commons usually sits from Monday to Thursday, and on the occasional Friday. But on October 19 they will sit for the fifth Saturday since the start of the Second World War in 1939 to discuss Mr Johnson’s deal.

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On Thursday, MPs approved a motion to hold the first weekend sitting of Parliament since the Falklands conflict.

If Parliament does not vote for the agreement on Saturday, Mr Johnson faces an almighty clash over whether he will request a further Brexit delay from Brussels as he is compelled to under the Benn Act.

What will take place on Saturday?

The Commons will sit from 9.30am and the Lords will sit from 10am. The first order of business will be a statement from the Prime Minister to update the House after the EU Council summit.

After Mr Johnson's statement, the Government is expected to move its motion seeking MPs' approval for a Brexit deal.

MPs have been able to table amendments since Thursday night, and Speaker John Bercow can select as many amendments as he wants, with votes taking place on those before the vote on the Government motion.

The debate on the motion can run until any time on Saturday, and despite what people thought - and perhaps hoped - there is not a 2.30pm cut-off time.

But there should be indications of the sitting length on the day.

Will MPs vote for the Prime Minister's deal?

The vote could come down to the tightest of margins but it is understood the Prime Minister is working hard to win over MPs.

DUP MP Sammy Wilson has said his party would continue to hold firm and will vote against the deal on offer, while Nicola Sturgeon has ruled out her MPs in the SNP backing the deal.

Jeremy Corbyn was quick to dismiss the agreement and said Labour could not support the deal.

But this is where things get interesting.

Attention has turned to the Labour Party's own psychodrama, with focus on what MPs in Leave-voting seats will opt to do.

The Daily Telegraph reported that between 10 and 15 Labour MPs are prepared to back the deal to avoid a no-deal scenario.

Is it as simple as one yes or no vote?

No. MPs amended the Saturday sitting motion by approving a proposal tabled by former Tory minister Sir Oliver Letwin, now sitting as an Independent.

Sir Oliver explained this would allow MPs to move amendments to the Government's proposal and for them to be voted upon if selected by the Speaker, as mentioned above.

The SNP has tabled an amendment to reject the deal demanding an immediate extension to the October 31 deadline and a general election.

And Sir Oliver has put forward an amendment that, if accepted and approved, would force the Government to pass the European (Withdrawal Act) Bill before a meaningful vote could be held.

What will happen if the deal passes?

If the Prime Minister is successful in Westminster, he will then have to hope that MEPs in the European Parliament give it the same backing - a point reiterated by European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker in a joint press conference with Mr Johnson on Thursday.

Attention will also turn to passing the necessary legislation to make Britain's EU withdrawal legally enforceable.

The Prime Minister would need to find a further majority for the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill in order to put Brexit on the statute books.

But what if the deal is rejected?

If Parliament does not support the deal, Mr Johnson is compelled under the Benn Act to request a further Brexit delay to the end of January.

EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker piled the pressure on MPs to back the deal by raising doubts over any further delay to the UK's departure past October 31.

But European Council President Donald Tusk said if there is a request for an extension he will "consult with other member states to see how they react".