Just at the point when it appeared that Brexit would finally move on to its next stage, everything has changed yet again. Parliament reconvened after its summer recess on 3 September and was prorogued early this morning until 14 October, when there will be a Queen’s Speech to set out a new legislative agenda. The timing of the prorogation led to an uproar from those against a no-deal Brexit, namely a majority of those sitting in Parliament, claiming that the move was intended to suppress Parliamentary oversight of the Government.
This led to several court challenges (which so far the Government has won) and the taking over of the Parliamentary agenda by those against a no-deal Brexit. This led to the expulsion of 21 Conservative Members of Parliament who voted against the Government including two of those that stood in the last leadership contest, two former Chancellors, a former Attorney General and the grandson of Winston Churchill. This leaves Prime Minister Boris Johnson 43 short of a majority (now increased to 45).
Once the Parliamentary agenda had been taken over, Parliament duly passed a new Act (which became law yesterday) requiring the Prime Minister to request an extension to the current Brexit deadline of 31 October.
Faced with these defeats, the Prime Minister then sought (twice) to call a General Election and failed to get enough support for it. The Government’s hands now appear to be tightly bound with an European Council meeting scheduled for 17-18 October. It was at this meeting that the Prime Minister was planning to get an agreement to a new deal on Brexit, but that looks very unlikely given the developments in Parliament. As far as we can tell, the Opposition now have all of the cards and can bring the Government down at a time of their choosing – which we expect they will do at the end of October leading to a General Election at the end of November or early December.
The Prime Minister is adamant that he will not request an extension as that is against Government policy. The implications of this are far from clear. Some argue that the Prime Minister could be prosecuted. Perhaps, but would that happen before 31 October? It seems that the Prime Minister’s grand plan (given that the first one did not get far), is now to stall for time and allow the 31 October to pass so that the UK leaves that EU on that date. Whatever happens next, the party conference season which starts at the end of this month certainly will be very interesting! And, even if the UK does leave the EU on 31 October, then we have to start all over again to negotiate a new arrangement with the EU and will need to do so when goodwill and trust may have been seriously undermined.
If you are interested, click here for the judgment of the Scottish Court of Session dismissing the challenge of the Prime Minister’s decision to prorogue Parliament.
The decision of the English High Court dismissing another challenge is not yet available, but here you can find the claimants’ skeleton arguments, which may be of interest.
The text of the Bill that received Royal Assent yesterday can be found here.