He was hopeful that MPs will today vote in favour of the principle behind the long-awaited EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill as a first step towards completing its Commons scrutiny by Friday. But backbenchers yesterday hit out at the fast-track process. They could launch an attempt to force many more days of parliamentary debate in a fresh ambush today. Looking forward to today’s vote, Mr Johnson last night said: “We have negotiated a new deal so that we can leave without disruption and provide a framework for a new relationship based on free trade and friendly cooperation.
“We are leaving the European Union but we will always be European.”
He added: “I hope Parliament today votes to take back control for itself and the British people and the country can start to focus on the cost of living, the NHS, and conserving our environment.
“The public doesn’t want any more delays, neither do other European leaders and neither do I. Let’s get Brexit done on October 31 and move on.”
Downing Street officials were yesterday hopeful that the Government can win a majority in today’s crucial vote at the formal Second Reading of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill.
But they were braced for an attempt to drag out the debates far beyond the weekend with a possible vote against a Government “programme motion” designed to set the timetable for the parliamentary process.
Ministers also expect Remain-backing MPs to try to sabotage the legislation with a string of amendments after the Second Reading including bids to keep the UK in the EU’s customs union and trigger a second EU referendum.
Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg, above, announced the schedule to MPs yesterday.
He said the Commons stages should be concluded by the end of business on Thursday to allow the House of Lords to begin scrutiny on Friday.
“We have been debating these matters for three years. We have had endless debates, we have had endless statements by both this prime minister and his predecessor,” he told MPs.
SNP MP Pete Wishart called the three-day Commons timetable “totally unacceptable”.
He said: “We will be considering the second reading of this Bill the same day it starts a committee of the whole house.
“I’ve been in this House 18 years. I cannot remember when a Bill has been presented and debated in such terms, particularly one that will be a full treaty of this country.
“Three days to consider a Bill that somebody suggested was 100 pages. How on earth are we going to have a chance to assess it properly?”
Labour MP Owen Smith said: “Is he serious that we are going to try and ram through this Bill dealing with an international treaty in three days?”
Former Tory chancellor Kenneth Clarke, below, who has been stripped of the party whip for rebelling against the Prime Minister’s Brexit plans, said: “Two and a bit days of ordinary parliamentary hours is plainly quite insufficient.”
He pointed out that the UK’s entry to the European Community in 1974 and the Maastricht Treaty which founded the modern EU were both “debated for weeks on end with many all night sittings.”
Mr Clarke questioned whether ministers were trying to “confine debate by narrowing the time” and urged them to facilitate as much time as we need to consider it carefully.”
The Government’s October 31 Brexit deadline was “dashing for this completely silly and irrelevant date”, the veteran pro-Brussels MP said.
He added: “I see no reason at all why we should just all rise the evening so we everybody can go to dinner.”
Mr Johnson yesterday called European Parliament president David Sassoli to discuss the assembly’s timetable for holding votes on whether to approve the deal.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “The Prime Minister updated the president on the ratification process in the UK and stressed his determination for this to be completed in time for the UK to leave on October 31 with a deal.
“The Prime Minister said it was important that both the EU and the UK are able to ratify by October 31 in order to guarantee a smooth departure.”