Boris Johnson dropped a political bombshell by saying he will pull his Bill to deliver Brexit if defeated in votes tonight and demand a general election instead.
The Prime Minster made the threat at the Dispatch Box at the start of a debate leading to two crunch votes in the House of Commons.
The public does not want delay Mr Speaker, he told the House. “What on earth will the public think of us if this house again votes to delay Brexit?
If parliament refuses to allow Brexit to happen… in no circumstances can the government continue with this, he concluded. With great regret I will have to say the Bill will have to be pulled and we will have to go forward to a general election.
I will argue at that election Let’s get Brexit done… and the people will decide.
He said asking for another extension to Article 50 would mean the EU would be left to decide what happens next.
Mr Johnson predicted that opponents of Brexit would then demand weeks, months perhaps years to debate this matter.
During the debate, Mr Johnson sought to clinch extra votes by giving important assurances to MPs who asked questions.
To Labour MP Caroline Flint he committed to preserve environmental standards. To fellow Labour MP Jim Fitzpatrick he pledged to preserve consumer rights.
But he clashed with DUP Westminster leader Nigel Dodds who said the deal would leave Northern Ireland “de facto” subject to European Union customs controls.
Mr Johnson replied to loud grumbles from the DUP benches: There are no checks GB-NI. There will be some light-touch measures to ensure there is no illegal trade.
His brother Jo Johnson, who quit as a Cabinet minister over fears that Mr Johnson would go for a no-deal Brexit, quipped: I congratulate him on getting a deal I never doubted it.
Shadow chancellor and Labour MP John McDonnell tweeted: Johnson threatening a general election because Parliament might want a few more days to scrutinise his Withdrawal Bill. Pathetic. What has he got to hide?
Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesman Tom Brake described the Prime Minister’s threat to withdraw his deal if his plans are not backed by Parliament as childish blackmail.
MPs shouldn’t be bullied into voting in favour of this ridiculously short timetable, he said. Boris Johnson is trying to rush through this bad Brexit deal without proper scrutiny.
Earlier Mr Johnson told the Commons: I will in no way allow months more of this. If Parliament refuses to allow Brexit to happen and instead… decides to delay everything until January or possibly longer in no circumstances can the Government continue with this…
And with great regret I must say that the Bill will have to be pulled and we will have to go forward to a general election and I will argue at that election let’s get Brexit done.