In our post yesterday, we thought that new Withdrawal Bill giving effect to the new deal reached with the EU could pass its second reading, but it might fail to get approval for its expedited timetable through Parliament. That turned out to be exactly what happened. However, Prime Minister Johnson had threatened to pull the bill entirely if he lost the timetable motion, but he then decided to ‘pause’ the legislation pending the EU27’s response to the extension request that was made last Saturday.
Based on comments made today by members of the European Parliament and Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, it appears that a flexible extension may very well be agreed meaning that 31 January 2020 or the point at which the Withdrawal Bill received Royal Assent in the UK will be the date of the UK’s exit from the EU. If this occurs, Johnson is expected to push for a General Election and he will seek the support of the opposition Labour Party to do so. Despite many claims that this is to facilitate a no-deal exit, it appears to us that his motivation is actually for the opposite. The only way that Johnson can ensure that the Withdrawal Bill is approved without material amendment is with a majority. Otherwise, the resulting legislation will have too many amendments to be acceptable to the EU.
The most likely next step from here looks like it will be a General Election to be held on 28 November or 5 December of this year. However, if that election does not produce an outright majority then we are once more back to where we started. The polls are currently in Johnson’s favour, but we saw that before in 2017 and that resulted in a hung Parliament. A lot has changed politically since then, but it is not a forgone conclusion that Johnson will get the majority he hopes for if a General Election is in fact called soon.