It is rare that the House of Commons meets on a Saturday.

Before October 19, the last time was in 1982 when Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands. That was only the third Saturday session since the Second World War. Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister at the time.

The Telegraph has a short, informative video on the agenda for October 19:

The Rugby World Cup was on, so special arrangements were made for MPs who wanted to see the televised England v Australia match from Japan that morning.

However, the House of Commons was full to bursting by the time the session started at 9:30 a.m. As there are never enough seats on the benches for all MPs, several had to huddle together just inside the entrance to the chamber.

Those watching at home — and I was one of them — were looking forward to the session, like this Twitter user:

By 3:30 p.m., we were sorely disappointed, agreeing with ITV’s Piers Morgan:

The Letwin amendment

The day’s business began with a debate on the Letwin amendment, brought forward by outgoing MP, Sir Oliver Letwin, a notional Conservative — a rebel who had the whip removed.

This is not the first time Letwin has frustrated the Brexit process. He did so in April, when we had a short two-week extension from March 29 to April 12. He co-sponsored a bill with Labour MP Yvette Cooper to ensure we did not leave then, either:

Then — as now — the amendment was designed to thwart a No Deal exit. It passed. Conservative Woman discusses the amendment, but, more importantly, Letwin’s less than trustworthy tenure as an MP. About the Cooper-Letwin Bill from April, CW‘s article says (emphases mine below, unless otherwise stated):

Thanks to Oliver Letwin’s machinations with Yvette Cooper, we woke yesterday to hear that MPs had voted by majority of one ‘to force the prime minister to ask for an extension to the Brexit process, in a bid to avoid a no-deal scenario’. Not that Mrs May needed any forcing. The constitutional outrage of the Bill currently being rammed through Parliament is that against the people’s will it will prevent us leaving the EU, for a second time, despite the referendum, despite the main party manifestos, the European Withdrawal Act, and the Prime Minister’s repeated promises, on April 12.

That Mrs May is now playing kneesy-kneesy with Jeremy Corbyn and shuffling us toward a customs union worse than either leaving or remaining we have to thank Sir Oliver, useful idiot and Member of Parliament for the safe seat of West Dorset.

That, as a result of his Parliamentary coup, she’s collaborating and consulting a terrorist-loving Labour Leader in preference to her conservative colleague Jacob Rees-Mogg you’d think might trouble his conscience.

Not if you understand what shaped him as politician.

After Boris Johnson became Prime Minister, Letwin confirmed at the end of August that Speaker of the House John Bercow was working behind the scenes from his holiday bolthole in Turkey to frustrate Brexit before the Commons reconvened in September.

On September 12, The Sun reported on Letwin’s agenda:

SACKED Tory rebel Sir Oliver Letwin wants to create a “zombie parliament” by delaying Boris Johnson’s general election until next summer at least if he fails to get a new Brexit deal.

He warned there was a cross-party majority in favour of blocking going to the polls until our EU split is resolved — either by passing a deal or holding a second referendum.

Sir Oliver, a leading architect of the law to block a No Deal, said going back to the people to vote on Brexit must come first as an election would “muddle things up”.

But Tory Brexiteer Iain Duncan Smith accused him of “stabbing Conservative MPs in the back”.

Letwin’s successful amendment to Boris’s new deal in October prevents any exit until all legislation is agreed. By its very nature, it automatically triggered implementation of the Benn-Burt Act, which stipulates that Boris must send a letter to the EU to ask for an extension. As I write, it is unclear what the EU will do. Benn-Burt even specifies the exact text of the letter. More on that below.

Veteran broadcaster and publisher Andrew Neil explains the strategy behind Letwin’s move:

After Letwin’s amendment passed, The Telegraph rightly took issue with him:

The Mail on Sunday alleged that Letwin had help in devising the amendment from Lord Pannick, an ardent Remainer:

On Sunday, Letwin confirmed that Lord Pannick was helping him:

Not surprisingly, a number of former Conservative MPs — the rebels — voted for the Letwin amendment:

It is important to keep in mind that Northern Ireland’s DUP also voted for the Letwin amendment, even though Boris’s new Brexit deal has removed the contentious trade/customs backstop that Theresa May’s had. However, the DUP MPs are unhappy that there will be a virtual customs border in the Irish Sea:

If those two groups had not voted Aye, Letwin’s amendment would have failed. The result was close: 322-306.

However, if Labour think they now have the DUP onside, they should think again. On Monday, October 21, MP Jim Shannon said:

Guido Fawkes explains (emphasis in the original):

Big news if remain MPs were hoping to get a customs union amendment through on the back of DUP support. Sighs of relief from Downing Street…

Interestingly, the UK edition of HuffPost says that we might have reached what journalist Paul Waugh calls ‘peak Letwin’. After the vote, he wrote (emphases in the original, those in purple mine):

today it felt like we had reached ‘Peak Letwin’. And although the large crowd in Parliament Square roared when the vote was announced on a huge screen, that too felt like the last dying twitch of a movement that now looks doomed …

The pro-People’s Vote MPs will push one final time when the Withdrawal Agreement Bill arrives next week. But having waited and waited for their moment in the hope they can bring more MPs on board, that moment may have now passed. They won’t be able to amend the second reading of the bill, which may itself be passed with a hugely important vote for Johnson’s deal.

‌Most important of all, the People’s Vote campaign has been waiting for ‘moderate’ Tories to come on board (one claimed that half of the 21 would back a referendum), but those same Tories now look ready to call it a day and back the PM. The DUP are so upset with No.10 they are flirting with a second referendum threat, but few think that will happen.

The EU, which will probably hold off until Tuesday to see whether parliament really can pass the deal, may then offer only a short extension to say mid-November to allow time for the legislation and ratification by the EU itself. Again, that can only help Johnson and focus MPs’ minds once more on ‘this deal or no-deal’.

Confusion ensued

While we all knew that the Letwin amendment passed, confusion ensued as Saturday’s session ended.

Even MPs were left wondering what had happened.

It seemed to some of us, including MPs, that Boris’s deal had passed along with Letwin’s amendment. Although there was no vote on Boris’s deal, approving Letwin’s amendment seemed to imply that by voting for it, Boris’s deal had also been approved.

The parliamentary journal of record, Hansard, provided no clarity on the matter, either.

Letwin gave a statement after his amendment passed and House Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg made a Point of Order, not the customary Business Statement:

SNP MP Joanna Cherry checked Hansard but still has questions:

Jacob Rees-Mogg

As I said, Jacob Rees-Mogg made a Point of Order and delayed his usual customary Business Statement for Monday.

A lengthy 45-minute discussion ensued, mostly from Scottish MPs, such as Jo Cherry, who asked Speaker Bercow what was going on.

As Rees-Mogg made a Point of Order, he was not obliged to explain his statement that there would be a ‘full emergency business statement on Monday’:

Rees-Mogg sat there being discussed in the third person, which, while strange, conforms with parliamentary protocol:

Speaker Bercow reassured MPs that he would take legal advice at the weekend and make a statement on Monday:

The vote on the content of the Queen’s Speech was scheduled for early next week, too:

Then, Jacob Rees-Mogg quietly got up and walked out of the chamber (start at 4 sec. point):

Discussion went on for a few more minutes in his absence before concluding with this from Bercow:

Police protection required

The People’s Vote demonstration was going on outside the Palace of Westminster, as was a pro-Brexit gathering.

Although a few pro-Brexit jerks verbally attacked Labour MP Diane Abbott, the People’s Vote Remainers were far more serious about preventing Conservative MPs from leaving Parliament safely.

Some Cabinet MPs required a phalanx of police to escort them to their cars:

What happened to Rees-Mogg and his 12-year-old son, who had been in the Public Gallery, did the Remain/Second Referendum movement no favours:

However, Rees-Mogg received at least one shout out of support. This video also shows his son, who looks and dresses like his father:

Such heinous harassment will do Remainers no favours.

Boris complies with the law

That evening, Boris complied with the law.

Whether Remainers will approve (see below) is another matter.

However, I’m glad the PM complied with the Benn-Burt Act the way he did.

The Mail on Sunday reported:

Late yesterday – just before the midnight deadline stipulated by ‘wrecker’ MPs – a total of three letters were due to be sent from the Government to Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council.

The first was the letter demanded by the Benn Act, which asks the EU to delay Brexit beyond the October 31 deadline – but not signed by Boris Johnson – using the exact wording specified in the legislation.

The second was a covering letter, written by Sir Tim Barrow, the UK’s Permanent Representative in Brussels, which made clear that the first letter was from Parliament, not the Government.

And the third was a letter from Mr Johnson, which was also sent to the leaders of the other 27 EU nations, in which he disavowed the first letter by making clear that he does not want any delay to Brexit.

In it, the PM said any further hold-up would be ‘deeply corrosive’, and would ‘damage the interests of the UK and our EU partners’.

He said UK would continue to ratify the deal and urged Brussels to do the same.

Donald Tusk confirmed he received them:

Tim Barrow’s cover letter prefaced the Benn-Burt letter, unsigned:

The PM also sent a letter to MPs, exhorting (encouraging) them to support his deal:

More Scottish anti-Brexit lawsuits to come

This week, Jo Maugham QC and Joanna Cherry MP, also a QC, will bring more anti-Brexit lawsuits in Edinburgh.

The first is about Boris’s handling of his obligations under the Benn Act.

While Parliament convened, Jo Cherry included, Jo Maugham prepared for the week ahead in Spain:

Calm and witty though his tweets might be, it is nonetheless hard to forget that, on October 17, Maugham called Rees-Mogg a ‘notorious talker of tripe’. That was not a one-off against the Conservatives, either.

What happens next?

On October 19, the BBC reported that the government plans to bring back a vote on Boris’s deal by holding:

a “meaningful vote” on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill on Tuesday.

This would corner MPs into a Yes/No vote on their deal, and given there are a fair number of Labour rebels, the government could well win.

Certainly, the vote would put any number of Labour MPs – and MPs for other parties – from Brexit-voting constituencies in a very awkward place.

Watch out for an attempt to attach a second referendum to the deal in some way.

But the success of that effort would require full-throated support (and whipping of their MPs) from the Labour Party. They are not there yet, and they may never be.

If the government wins a “meaningful vote” on Tuesday, the legislation to underpin the new deal would then go forward – and that would provide further opportunities to attempt amendments.

Winning the next meaningful vote is only the beginning of a new phase of Brexit; it’s not even the beginning of the end.

How true.

Along with many other Britons, I wish they would just pass Boris’s deal, along with the legislation, and get on with leaving on October 31 …

… because, at that point, our transition period begins. It would be scheduled to last until December 2020. It is during that time that trade — and other — deals can be fully negotiated.

More to follow this week.