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Law to stop no-deal Brexit passed by Parliament

Prime minister says the legislation will ‘scupper’ his chances of awithdrawaldealwith no-deal

The author of a new law to block a no-deal Brexit, which completed its passage through parliament on Friday, has said he is “very troubled” by suggestions that prime minister Boris Johnson will not comply with it.

Hilary Benn, the chair of the Commons Brexit committee, was speaking after Mr Johnson suggested he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than request a further delay to Brexit negotiations.

In a warning to the prime minister not to ignore the legislation in the hope of forcing the UK out of the EU without a deal against parliament’s wishes on 31 October, the senior Labour MP said: “Either we have the rule of law or we do not.”

The passage of Mr Benn’s bill through the House of Lords was the latest blow for the embattled PM in a disastrous week which has seen him repeatedly defeated at Westminster, lose his majority, fail to call a snap election, expel 21 of his MPs and watch his own brother walk out of his government.

The legislation, tabled after MPs seized control of the Commons agenda, is now due to become law by going to the Queen for royal assent before parliamentary sittings are suspended next week.

It paves the way for a snap general election, now almost certain to take place in November, after opposition parties agreed to deny Mr Johnson the two-thirds majority he needs on Monday to trigger a general election before his “do or die” Brexit deadline of 31 October.

Mr Johnson said it will “scupper” his chances of negotiating a Brexit deal with the EU, by giving Brussels confidence that the UK will not crash out without a deal at the end of next month.

Thousands protest after Boris Johnson requests to suspend parliament

But asked if he would resign rather than request a third Brexit delay from the EU, he replied: “That is not a hypothesis I am willing to contemplate. I want us to get this thing done.”

A Downing Street spokeswoman declined to rule out the possiblity of the PM resigning, saying only: “We are taking one step at a time here.”

Under the terms of the bill, Mr Johnson must request an extension to Brexit negotiations to the end of January next year unless he can secure a deal or parliamentary approval for no-deal by 19

The legislation passed through the Commons in a matter of hours on Wednesday and completed all stages in the Lords in two days after an agreement between the government and opposition parties ended an attempt to quash it with time-wasting amendments in the early hours of Thursday. It had completed all stages in the Commons in a matter of hours on Wednesday.

Johnson’s Brexit stance ‘could drive Tory voters to Remain parties’
Mr Benn said he was “very troubled” by suggestions that Mr Johnson will not comply with the bill’s requirements.

“Delighted that our bill to stop a damaging no-deal Brexit on 31 October has now been passed by the House of Lords, but very troubled by the prime minister’s repeated statements that he will not seek an extension under any circumstances,” said the Brexit Committee chairman.

“Either we have the rule of law or we do not.”

Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, said the passage of the bill was a “hugely important victory in the fight to stop Boris Johnson’s plan for a no-deal Brexit”.

“We will not let this prime minister put jobs and the economy at risk,” said Sir Keir.

Hilary Benn (Getty)

But Tory grandee Sir Malcolm Rifkind condemned the manoeuvre as “juvenile”, warning it would merely introduce a month-long delay to the Brexit process, which would be damaging to business and jobs and prolong uncertainty and political gridlock without affecting the end result.

Speaking to The Independent, Sir Malcolm predicted that Mr Johnson would “grit his teeth” and accept the “humiliation” of the U-turn on his pledge rather than wave goodbye to Downing Street. Or he said Mr Johnson could even stand aside for a matter of weeks and appoint a caretaker PM to undertake the painful job of requesting a further extension before his return to No 10, in order to avoid personally breaking his promise.

Describing the “dead in a ditch” comment as “a theatrical statement, not to be taken too literally”, the former foreign secretary said: “The reality is he is not going to break the law. It is a serious political embarrassment for the government, but in the real world delaying an election which all parties agree is appropriate will have no practical impact on Brexit but will be damaging for business.”

Opposition leaders including Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn and Liberal Democrat Jo Swinson agreed in a conference call not to vote for a 15 October election on Monday, because of fears that Mr Johnson could simply ignore the anti-no-deal legislation until the Halloween deadline has passed.

“We were all clear we are not going to let Boris Johnson cut and run,” said a Liberal Democrat spokeswoman.

“The Liberal Democrat position for a while now is that we won’t vote for a general election until we have an extension agreed with the EU. I think the others are coming round to that.

“As a group we will all vote against or abstain on Monday.”

Conservatives branded Mr Corbyn “chicken” for refusing to vote for an election which he has long demanded.

Speaking during a visit to Aberdeenshire, Mr Johnson said: “I’ve never known an opposition in the history of democracy that’s refused to have an election, but that’s their choice.

“I think obviously they don’t trust the people, they don’t think that the people will vote for them, so they’re refusing to have an election.

“And so what we will do is we will go to the summit on the 17th, we’ll get a deal and we’ll come out on October 31.”

The bill includes provisions for MPs to vote on the final version of Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement, thanks to an amendment passed by accident when tellers were not provided to record votes against.

A cross-party group calling itself MPs For A Deal – including former Tory minister Rory Stewart, who was expelled by Johnson this week, Labour’s Stephen Kinnock and Caroline Flint and Liberal Democrat Sir Norman Lamb – said May’s compromise plan, drawn up in discussions with opposition leaders, provided “a solid and realistic basis” for the PM to secure a deal which could be put to parliament when it returns from prorogation on 14 October.

With many thanks to: The Independent and Andrew Woodcock Political Editor for the original story @andywoodcock

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Could Boris Johnson cut the North of Ireland loose?

Boris Johnson


Boris Johnson is trapped. He has thrown away his working Commons majority by expelling 21 reality-based Conservatives.

He gambled on his political enemies doing the thing he wanted them to, vote for an early general election, then appeared surprised when they declined to do so.

If he can’t get a Commons vote for that election next week, it seems quite likely he will face a legal requirement to request an Article 50 extension, with no prospect of an election and a new majority before 31 October that could free him from that obligation.

How does he get out of the hole he has dug himself? A lot of chatter is about resignation, but that would surely allow Jeremy Corbyn at least an attempt to form a government during the Fixed Term Parliaments Act’s 14-day interval before a dissolution. Corbyn would, you might guess, struggle to form a viable government. But how much would you bet on that?

Johnson is in his current plight because he bet on his opponents doing what he hoped they would; he would be bold indeed to bet again on their willingness to follow his script.

There remains another way out of this mess: pass Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement, with the backstop amended to apply only to Northern Ireland.

Could the EU, at this stage, offer such a deal? It’s certainly being discussed in Dublin these days. Remember, the EU originally wanted the backstop to apply only to Northern Ireland; in the EU view, allowing the whole of the UK to have complete access to the single market without an obligation to accept the ‘four freedoms’ was a significant concession to May. Not that she ever actually explained this to colleagues or voters, of course, a failure that partly explains her downfall and Britain’s current nadir.

There were two reasons May rejected an NI-only backstop. First, she needed the DUP’s support. Second, and more important to her, she believed it would jeopardise the Union to have Northern Ireland subject to different international rules to the rest of the UK.

Neither condition applies to Prime Minister Johnson. First, having already thrown away his majority by purging his colleagues, the DUP are irrelevant to him: whether they support him or no, he can’t command the Commons. Second, he’s suggested at least once that he doesn’t think issues around Northern Ireland and its border with the Republic should be central to the Brexit decision. ‘Letting the tail wag the dog’ was how he once described Government policy relating to an integral part of the United Kingdom.

The voters Johnson most cares about don’t care much about Northern Ireland either. One poll suggests that more than 80 per cent of Leave voters in England think unravelling the NI peace process is a price worth paying to get the UK out of the EU.

This is my speculation, of course, but will people happy to countenance a return to terrorist conflict to get Brexit, kick-up that much of a fuss if Brexit requires only the creation of a notional regulatory border in the Irish sea?


I suppose Johnson’s ‘antidemocratic backstop’ rhetoric would make it a bit tricky to apply the measure to Northern Ireland, whose voters would have no direct say on the EU rules that would apply to them. But bluntly, most people at Westminster are intensely relaxed about the suspension of the Northern Ireland Assembly and the possible restoration of direct rule. The democratic rights of people in Northern Ireland are rarely at the top of the political agenda in SW1A 0AA.

Would Tory Brexiteers swallow the WA with an NI-only backstop? I don’t know, but Johnson could reasonably tell them it was that or more delay and maybe no Brexit. OK, that was the May proposition when she tried to sell her deal. But:

i) Boris Johnson isn’t Theresa May: he gets the benefit of the doubt from colleagues and editors in a way she never did.

ii) Events since the rejection of the WA have proved that she was essentially right about her deal being the least bad option. And Johnson could just possibly hope for more Labour votes than May got.

Of course, Nigel Farage and the Brexit party would be furious. But that will happen regardless, and a hard Brexit deal that took the UK mainland out of the Single Market and Customs Union might well take a lot of the wind from their sails.

To be clear, I’m not advocating this course or even predicting it. Resurrecting the May Deal, even with a major change to the backstop, would be an implausible and risky choice. But so is every other option available to Boris Johnson these days. And politics, as someone once said, ultimately comes down to tough choices.


Since filing this piece, I’ve seen that my old colleague Peter Foster has been airing some similar speculation.

I can’t add much to that beyond saying that Peter is very well-informed on these matters and if you don’t follow his work, you should.

With many thanks to: The Spector and James Kirkup for the original story 

Tories extend lead over Labour to 10 points despite chaotic week

More than half of all leave voters are now planning to vote for Boris Johnson

The Conservatives have extended their lead over Labour as pro-Brexit voters return the party, according to the latest Opinium poll for the Observer but I wouldn’t hold my breath 😂😂🤣🤣

Despite a week of political chaos that has seen Boris Johnson purge the party of 21 MPs who oppose his plans, the Tories recorded a 10-point lead over Labour. For the first time since March, more than half (53%) of leave voters now intend to vote Conservative. Almost half of all voters (46%) now think the Conservative party has in effect become the Brexit party.

The polling will be used by Johnson’s team as evidence that their ruthless strategy to push hard to secure Brexit and hold an election can work. However, the strategy has run aground as opposition parties are blocking an election from taking place.

Anti-Brexit protesters decry Johnson’s ‘coup’ in London and Leeds
The Conservatives are up 3 points to 35% of the vote, while the Brexit party is down 3 points to 13%. The Liberal Democrats are up 2 points to 17%, with Labour down 1 point to 25%.

Opinium said there was a considerable amount of voter churn, with only the Lib Dems retaining an overwhelming proportion of their vote from the last election (83% of 2017 Lib Dems would vote for the party again). Both the Conservatives and Labour are on track to lose votes to the Lib Dems among their remainer wing and lose votes to the Brexit party from their leave wing.

For the first time since the 2017 general election, Opinium said it was recording a direct shift in votes between the two major parties. Just over a fifth (22%) of Labour leave voters are now intending to vote Conservative.

Boris Johnson ‘could be jailed for refusing to seek Brexit delay’
Johnson’s personal ratings have been dented after his bruising week in the Commons. Now only just over a third (36%) think he would be the best prime minister, down from 41% last month. However, Jeremy Corbyn is not benefiting from Johnson’s troubles. Only 16% say he would be the best prime minister.

Only 37% approve of the way that Johnson is handling the Brexit process, while 43% disapprove. However, that is better than than the ratings for Corbyn. Just 17% approve of the Labour leader’s response, and 20% approve of Jo Swinson’s.

Johnson’s decision to prorogue parliament has not upset leave voters. The public as a whole is divided on this: 33% support the prime minister’s prorogation of parliament, while 36% oppose it. This is split evenly along EU referendum lines: 59% of leavers support the prorogation, while 61% of remainers oppose it.

Adam Drummond, the head of political polling at Opinium, said: “We’re facing unprecedented times in Westminster, and it’s very difficult to predict what will happen in the next few days, let alone further beyond. While Boris Johnson isn’t garnering much support from the public, he does at least remain ahead of his closest rivals, and more than double the amount of people approve of the way he has handled Brexit compared with Jeremy Corbyn.

“The reason for these numbers is that Boris Johnson has invited the clear disapproval of remainers on Brexit, in return for the clear backing of leave voters. On the other hand, opposition leaders have managed to unite leave voters in disapproving of their response to the government without succeeding in wholeheartedly winning over remainers.”

Opinium polled 2,009 people online from 4-6 September.

With many thanks to: The Guardian Newspaper and Michael Savage (Policy Editor) for the original story 

Pro and anti-Brexit demonstrators clash on Parliament Square

Brexit: MPs back bill to block no deal on first vote

Brexit delay Bill passes initial vote: Eyes to the Right 329 – Eyes to the Left 300

MPs have backed a bill to block a no-deal Brexit, which could trigger Boris Johnson to seek a general election.

Opposition MPs and Tory rebels ensured the bill passed its first stage by 329 votes to 300.

If it is passed in full, it will force the PM to ask for an extension to 31 October Brexit deadline if a deal has not been agreed with the EU.

But Mr Johnson has warned he would push for an immediate vote on an early general election it if went through.

This vote was on the second reading – the parliamentary stage which examines the main principles of the bill – and was the first chance for MPs to show whether they supported the bill.

MPs are now debating amendments to the bill – put forward by MPs but chosen by the Deputy Speaker – which they will vote on from 19:00.

It would be after this the PM might carry out his threat of tabling his motion for an election.

During his first Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Johnson challenged Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to put his policy of “dither and delay” over EU withdrawal to the British people on 15 October in an election.

But Mr Corbyn said the PM was “running down the clock” on a no-deal Brexit and “hiding the facts” about the likelihood of food and medicine shortages.

Corbyn to Johnson: “A lot of people have a great deal to fear”

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer has told Labour MPs the leadership would not back an election until a Brexit delay had been agreed with the EU.

The Liberal Democrats have also said they will vote against an early election at this stage.

MPs backing the bill are trying to push it through as quickly as possible so it becomes law before the government suspends Parliament next week.

As a result:

The first vote on the bill is due at about 17:00 BST on Wednesday

MPs will then be allowed to debate amendments to the bill, and vote on them at 19:00

The bill will then go to the Lords for approval on Thursday – it is unclear what will happen in the Lords, but it could end up being debated through the weekend if opponents manage to filibuster

If the Lords pass any amendments it will have to return to the Commons for approval
Once the bill has passed all stages, it will receive Royal Assent from the Queen (making it law)

In the Lords, peers are debating a business motion setting out the rules for how the bill will go forward if it is passed by the Commons.

As it stands, the motion gives a mechanism – known as a “guillotine” – ensuring all stages of the bill are finished in the Lords by 19:00 on Friday.

But pro-Brexit peers have tabled over 100 amendments to try and filibuster the motion and stop the bill going ahead.

Views from the debates
At the start of the debates about the bill, Labour MP and chair of the Brexit Select Committee, Hilary Benn, said: “The bill has wide cross-party support and is backed by members who have very different views on how the matter of Brexit should be concluded.

“What unites us is a conviction that there is no mandate for no deal and the consequences for the economy and the country would be highly damaging.”

But Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay said: “The public want a Brexit deal, the business community want certainty [but] this bill will leave our negotiations in purgatory.”

Former Tory Chancellor Philip Hammond – who was sacked from his party on Tuesday after voting in favour of the debate – told the Commons: “There is no mandate for a no-deal Brexit and a no-deal Brexit will be a catastrophe for the United Kingdom.”

He also “reminded” his former colleagues in government that “many of us now on the backbenchers have had the privilege of seeing the detailed analysis from within government about the precise and damaging effects of a no-deal Brexit”.

And in her first speech in the Commons, Liberal Democrat Jane Dodds, said: “When it comes to a no-deal Brexit, we need to stop talking in terms of the hypothetical and theoretical, and start talking with candour about real and damaging consequences it would bring. It would be catastrophic.”

But Tory MP Caroline Johnson said it was a “political bill” that postpones no deal – rather than ruling it out – and made it “virtually impossible” for the prime minister to negotiate with the EU.

What does the no-deal bill say?
The bill says the prime minister will have until 19 October to either pass a deal in Parliament or get MPs to approve a no-deal Brexit.

Once this deadline has passed, he will have to request an extension to the UK’s departure date to 31 January 2020 – and, unusually, the bill actually includes the wording of the letter he would have to write.

If the EU responds by proposing a different date, the PM will have two days to accept that proposal. During that time, MPs – not the government – will have the opportunity to reject the EU’s date.

The bill also requires ministers to report to the House of Commons over the next few months. potentially providing more opportunities to take control of the timetable.

Be aware though, this could all change over the next few days because MPs and peers have the power to pass amendments to any law.

Mr Johnson said he would use the Fixed Term Parliaments Act to call for an early general election on 15 October – before the EU summit and the proposed law’s imposed deadline – if the bill got through the second vote on Wednesday night.

That means a debate and vote on his motion could take place as soon as MPs have finished voting on the bill.

The prime minister said the MPs’ bill would “hand control” of Brexit negotiations to the EU, and he had no choice but to press ahead with efforts to call an October election, adding: “The people of this country will have to choose.”

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said the issue with the negotiations was that Mr Johnson’s government had not come forward with any alternatives for the backstop to guarantee an open border.

“This is a problem that’s real, that’s complex and needs a solution,” he said.

Will there be an early election?
What does the no-deal bill say?
Under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, a prime minister must have the backing of at least two-thirds of the UK’s 650 MPs before a poll can be called outside of the fixed five-year terms.

The government lost its majority on Tuesday when one of its MPs – Dr Phillip Lee – quit the Conservatives to join the Liberal Democrats.

It dropped further after No 10’s decision to remove the party whip from the 21 Tory MPs who voted in favour of taking over Parliament.

One of those booted out of the party, Margot James, has publicly questioned the role played by Dominic Cummings, the PM’s senior aide, in the decision.

Raising the issue at PMQs, she urged Mr Johnson to bear in mind his predecessor Margaret Thatcher’s famous adage that “advisers advise and ministers decide”.

With many thanks to: BBC News for the original story