Boris Johnson will today launch his final bid to secure Brexit by the Halloween deadline as he attempts to force legislation through the Commons in just three days.
The Government published its Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB), which runs to 110 pages and is accompanied by 124 pages of explanatory notes, ahead of the beginning of a key Commons debate on Tuesday.
Ministers insisted they are confident they have the numbers to get it through the Commons, despite their defeat in Saturday’s special sitting.
If MPs back it then the UK could in theory leave the EU on October 31, but many are deeply unhappy that there is so little time for detailed scrutiny of such an important Bill.
Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer accused the Prime Minister of trying to “bounce” MPs into supporting a plan that was “deeply flawed”.
“It is outrageous to deny Parliament the chance to scrutinise this incredibly important legislation properly,” the Labour MP said. “Ministers are trying to bounce MPs into signing off a Bill that could cause huge damage to our country. We can’t trust this Prime Minister.”
However, Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg warned on Monday that the programme motion was essential if they were to meet the Halloween deadline. “People who do not vote for the programme motion will not be voting for Brexit on October 31,” he said.
Failure to get the motion through would open up the prospect that Mr Johnson will be forced to accept another lengthy delay to Britain’s departure – something he has vowed not to do.
The first vote on Tuesday will be on the Bill’s second reading in principle.
Despite the opposition of the DUP over arrangements for Northern Ireland, ministers believe they have the support of pro-Leave Labour rebels and former Tory MPs now sitting as independents who would rather leave with Mr Johnson’s deal than no deal at all.
If they get through the second reading, the Government will hope it gives the momentum to carry through the programme motion as well.
If that passes, under the proposed timetable, the Bill would then move to the committee stage – which will continue on into Wednesday – when MPs will have the opportunity to put down amendments.
These are expected to include attempts to keep the UK more closely aligned with the EU through a customs union and to stage a second referendum.
Both are bitterly opposed by the Government, raising the possibility that it could pull the Bill altogether if either gets through.
Ahead of the debate, Mr Johnson called on MPs to get behind the agreement, warning that the public did not want any further delay.
“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 co-operation,” he said in a statement. “We are leaving the European Union but we will always be European.
“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.”
For Labour, shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer accused the Prime Minister of trying to “bounce” MPs into supporting a plan that was “deeply flawed”.
“It is outrageous to deny Parliament the chance to scrutinise this incredibly important legislation properly,” he said.
“Ministers are trying to bounce MPs into signing off a Bill that could cause huge damage to our country. We can’t trust this Prime Minister.”