Brexit: “the only chance” next week to work without any agreement


Next week could be MPs’ “only opportunity” to challenge a no-deal Brexit, ex-minister David Gauke has said.

This follows the prime minister’s decision to suspend Parliament in September and October.

The move sparked criticism from those who argue Boris Johnson is trying to prevent MPs from blocking a no-deal Brexit.

Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg said their outrage was “phoney”.

The government said the five-week suspension – known as prorogation – in September and October will still allow time to debate Brexit.

But government whip Lord Young has resigned in protest, arguing the move risks “undermining the fundamental role of Parliament”.

And a Scottish court hearing is under way which could block the suspension of Parliament.

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How do you suspend Parliament?
Speaking to the BBC, the former justice secretary David Gauke has said it looks like next week is “the only opportunity” for MPs to act before the UK leaves the EU.

He argued the public did not want a no-deal Brexit but that the options of those opposed to such an exit have “now narrowed”.

“That would suggest we need to move sooner rather than later,” he said.

And shadow chancellor John McDonnell has said he believes that Parliament will be able to find a way to stop a no-deal Brexit but that nobody should “underestimate” how difficult it would be.

A video has emerged of Defence Secretary Ben Wallace appearing to say Parliament was being suspended to get Brexit “sorted”.

He was caught on camera discussing the PM’s decision with the French defence minister Florence Parly, saying that Parliament had been “very good at saying what it doesn’t want, but… awful at saying what it wants”.

What might happen next?
Despite having little time, MPs still have options for trying to block a no-deal Brexit.

They could try to take control of the parliamentary timetable in order to pass legislation which would force the PM to request an extension to the Brexit deadline.

Another option would be to remove the current government through a vote of no confidence.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said opposition MPs would take the first steps towards trying to pass a law blocking a no-deal Brexit when Parliament returns on Tuesday.

Asked whether they still had the time to pass such legislation, the Labour leader replied: “We believe we can do it, otherwise we wouldn’t be trying to do it.”

He said tabling a no-confidence motion in the PM at an “appropriate moment” also remained an option as part of a strategy to block a no-deal scenario.

It is also thought some MPs are exploring ways of ensuring Parliament can meet on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday before the planned suspension.

More about how MPs could block a no-deal Brexit
Have there been resignations?
Conservative peer Lord Young of Cookham resigned from his role as government whip in the House of Lords in protest at the prorogation.

In his resignation letter, he said the timing and length of the suspension “risks undermining the fundamental role of Parliament at a critical time in our history”.

Meanwhile, Ruth Davidson has also confirmed she is quitting as leader of the Scottish Conservatives, citing personal and political reasons for stepping down.

Ms Davidson – who backed Remain in the 2016 EU referendum – added she had never sought to hide the “conflict” she felt over Brexit, and urged Mr Johnson to get a Brexit deal.

What was decided?
On Wednesday, Mr Johnson said a Queen’s Speech would take place after the suspension, on 14 October, to outline his “very exciting agenda”.

Mr Rees-Mogg said this parliamentary session had been one of the longest in almost 400 years, so it was right to suspend it and start a new session.

MPs voted by 498 votes to 114 to leave the EU by triggering Article 50 in February 2017. That began the countdown to the UK’s departure, which is due on 31 October.

Commons leader Mr Rees-Mogg said the outrage was “phoney”, and that the move was “constitutional and proper”.

“The candyfloss of outrage we’ve had over the last 24 hours, which I think is almost entirely confected, is from people who never wanted to leave the European Union,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

But Ruth Fox – director of parliamentary experts the Hansard Society – said this prorogation was “significantly longer than we would normally have” for the purpose of starting a new parliamentary session.

Ms Fox said that depending on the day the suspension began – and on whether MPs would have voted to have a party conference recess at all – the prorogation could “potentially halve” the number of days MPs have to scrutinise the government’s Brexit position.

The prime minister says he wants to leave the EU at the end of October with a deal, but is willing to leave without one rather than miss the deadline.

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