It’s not over until the final whistle

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To borrow some over-used football phraseology, yesterday’s Brexit proceedings in parliament proved to be a game of two halves. Boris Johnson achieved something of a Brexit milestone by presenting a deal which, in principle, received approval of MPs by a majority of 30 – the first time this has happened during the process.

However, those opposed to the deal ‘equalised’ by preventing the Prime Minister from forcing through the legislation without full scrutiny and the opportunity to propose amendments. This has moved the goalposts and almost certainly killed off any chance of the UK leaving the EU on 31 October and Brussels is now expected to present a new deadline of 31 January 2020 – extra time (to continue the football analogy).

What happens beyond that point is up for debate.

The government has little choice but to accept the extension as parliament would block the UK crashing out with no deal. The extension (which may be put forward in the familiar form of a flextension) would allow parliament time to pore over the detail of the draft Withdrawal Agreement. However, the government is deeply concerned that this will result in the deal being radically amended against its gameplan.

Faced with this dilemma, there is a strong possibility that Boris Johnson will try to trigger a General Election. However, the close proximity to the festive season does not usually go hand in hand with an election campaign and squeezing in a January poll date prior to a new deadline is logistically difficult too.

So, parliament has edged closer to agreeing to a deal in some respects but taken steps in the opposite direction by extending the process to achieve it.

They think Brex-it’s all over…it isn’t yet.