What has gone on in Parliament this week? Jack Simpson reviews.
So… Where to begin?
Since becoming Prime Minister, you would be forgiven for thinking Boris Johnson has one sole policy, leaving the European Union on October 31st, deal or no deal. However, Parliament has been fairly unanimous in its opposition to a destructive No Deal, and would look to prevent Johnson’s No Deal ambitions.
This is where it gets ugly. Johnson is trying to outmaneuvre Parliament, by asking the Queen to suspend Parliament for a month and deliver her state speech on a new Government agenda. This is very legal, but very undemocratic, as it suffocates the Brexit debate at the most critical time, and allows Johnson to torpedo a Brexit outcome without scrutiny.
This all built up to a chess-like dramatic couple days in Parliament.
-Parliament returned from its summer break on Tuesday, 3rd September, and voted straight away to take control of the order paper. Normally Government decides what will be discussed and debated, but Parliament wanted control of the order so that it could schedule a vote on avoiding No Deal the next day, 4th September.
-Johnson lost this vote 328-301, a defeat of 27 MPs 21 of which were Conservatives. Johnson immediately countered and said if the No Deal vote wins, I want to call an election.
-Also, those 21 MPs including two former chancellors, and David Gauke, who has never rebelled before were expelled from the Conservative Party.
-After a passionate Prime Minister’s Questions, Parliament started the vote to avoid No Deal on October 31st. The vote stated that if a Brexit deal wasn’t approved by Parliament by October 19th, the PM would have to request an extension until January 31st.
-After three hours debate, Johnson suffered his second defeat as Prime Minister, of 329-300, a widening margin as Conservative Spelman defected.
-After this, Johnson called for a motion on a General Election. Under UK law, this needs 2/3 of Parliament approval to go ahead.
-The twist here, Corbyn says he doesn’t want an election until Parliament has ruled out No Deal, and will work with other parties on a election date (Cynics might say he doesn’t want to negotiate Brexit either).
-298-56 voted in favour of an election, but because it didn’t get 2/3 of MPs (434), the Government was defeated, meaning Johnson has a Parliamentary record of three defeats in three
-Election is certainly a when, not an if.
Parliament certainly did the right thing to avoid a chaotic and dislocating No Deal that would wreck the regional, and national, economy and harm longer term prosperity. Once No Deal is avoided, we need to work together for a resolution to this mess.
Brexit is absorbing economic resource and investment, while acting as a vacuum on Parliamentary time to tackle issues in skills, transport and technology. There can be no doubt that the Brexit process has created a difficult business environment, and that is why we must see a swift, but acceptable, resolution to these Brexit negotiations.