The new Prime Minister is not prepared to engage in an endless series of parliamentary manoeuvres. On the first Commons sitting day since the summer break today, he will seek to resolve the conflict between the 2016 popular vote to leave the EU and an overwhelmingly Remain-dominated Parliament by giving MPs a stark choice to back him or face the verdict of the voters.
The extraordinary Bill tabled by Labour MP Hilary Benn and signed by three Tory rebels seeks to change the law to force the Prime Minister to beg Brussels for a fresh Brexit delay if he cannot agree a deal by October 19. If passed, it would oblige him to request the extension of the official departure date until January 31 or another date chosen by the EU.
That clause effectively hands Brussels the power to unilaterally decide the UK’s fate.
Mr Johnson has made delivering Brexit on October 31 his mantra and cannot countenance any delay.
Today’s attempt by opposition and rebel MPs to force through the Bill has therefore turned into the final showdown between the Brexiteer Prime Minister and the cross-party Remain alliance.
Tory rebels will have spent last night pondering whether they really do want to end their careers in the party by siding with Jeremy Corbyn. Some may crack under the pressure.
But a sizeable number of the Tory rebels already plan to stand down at the next election and are unlikely to back down now. The result will only be certain once the tellers have counted MPs through the Commons lobbies.
Last night, the Government looked well short of the numbers needed to defeat the rebels. It looks as if the UK is going to the polls in just six weeks’ time.