UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday addressed the House of Commons ahead of a “knife-edge” vote on his latest Brexit deal, a last-ditch attempt before the October 31 deadline to leave the European Union (EU).
Business in the House of Commons started at around 9.30 a.m. – the first weekend sitting since the invasion of the Falklands in 1982, the BBC reported.
Johnson began his address by thanking Parliament staff for allowing the first Saturday sitting of MPs in 37 years.
“This is the moment” the Commons can reach agreement on Brexit, the Prime Minister says in his address to the MPs.
It’s time to “move on and build a new relationship” with Europe, the Prime Minister added.
He said that his new deal will allow a “new way forward”, letting the UK leave the EU while maintaining the “closest ties of friendship and co-operation”.
He also thanked the EU leaders for being “flexible” in re-opening discussions.
Johnson’s revised deal with the EU was secured at a Brussels summit on Thursday. It ditches his predecessor Theresa May’s backstop, the measure designed to prevent a return to physical checks on the Irish border.
Instead it will, in effect, draw a new customs border along the Irish Sea.
Johnson said that Brexit will allow the UK to “take back control”, and benefit “the whole country, including Northern Ireland”.
The people of Northern Ireland will have the right to “express their consent” or otherwise for the provisions in the deal, he added.
The Prime Minister ended his statement by saying that his deal can “heal the country” and that, as democrats, MPs must back the result of the 2016 referendum.
He wants the country to be “generous” and “outward-looking”.
The timing of any votes following Johnson’s address depends on which amendments are chosen by the Speaker of the Commons, John Bercow, but they were not expected before 2.30 p.m. (around 6.30 p.m. IST), the BBC reported.
In response to Johnson’s address, opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said the new deal was “even worse” than May’s.
At least nine Labour MPs were expected to rebel. On Friday evening, Corbyn said that his party was “united in opposing” Johnson’s “sell-out Brexit deal”.
He said his party would “come together and reject it”.
Johnson’s former allies from Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and opposition parties have already announced their plans to vote against it.
Also crucial to Johnson’s hopes of success will be the 21 Tories who had the whip withdrawn for supporting a bill to force the Prime Minister to seek an extension to avoid a no-deal Brexit, the BBC said.
Johnson has repeatedly said Brexit will happen by the end of the month with or without a deal.
However, MPs passed a law in September, known as the Benn Act, which requires the Prime Minister to send a letter to the EU asking for an extension until January 2020 if a deal is not agreed – or if MPs do not back a no-deal Brexit.