First published on Facebook 29th August 2019.
I wrote this as calmly as I could.
But I don’t have words for how angry, despairing, frightened, and angry I am that it has come to this.
Why I think we all need to start prepping for No Deal Brexit (or take up the prepping again if you were prepping for Brexit earlier in the year):
Boris Johnson has petitioned the Queen (who had no constitutional option but to agree) to prorogue Parliament – at earliest Monday 9th September, at latest Thursday 12th September.
The first day on which Corbyn could call for a no-confidence vote against Boris Johnson in Monday 2nd September, but he would be unlikely to do so as MPs are on their way back from their constituencies on Mondays. It is clear that the nascent Remain alliance – such as it is – isn’t yet together enough to have a coherent proposal which Tory MPs furious at Johnson may back even at the cost of losing their seats in the next General Election. But supposing they all do some hard thinking over the weekend (“Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully”) and conclude on a Plan – a caretaker-PM, a temporary government supported by 320 MPs (or whatever – enough to keep voting down Johnson’s Tories & a handful of diehard Brexiteers of other parties and none): and a process to stop no-deal Brexit.
On Wednesday 4th September, Corbyn as leader of the Opposition calls for that vote of no-confidence, Johnson loses, and Corbyn then has a fortnight to form a government – that is, til Wednesday 18th September.
Except that on Thursday 12th September, Parliament is prorogued.
The drafters of the Fixed Term Parliament Act never thought of *that*.
Of course Johnson, having lost a vote of no-confidence, ought to resign as Prime Minister and have another Tory MP appointed to be the Acting Prime Minister for the next two weeks. But Johnson has already made clear he won’t resign. Which means he won’t be sending a request to the Queen to change the date Parliament is prorogued.
However. Let’s suppose that our flexible UK uncodified constitution finds a way to pause the prorogation of Parliament *even though* the incumbent Prime Minister won’t do it.
The whole thing is dependent then on whether Labour, SNP, LibDems, Plaid Cymru, ChangeUK, a Green, a handful of independents and an unknown number of rebel Tories can agree on who to appoint as caretaker-PM, what to agree to for the new government to do, how to prevent the new government doing anything else, and draw up an agreement fixing all of this into words everyone agrees on – for the 18th of September.
If not, then Parliament is prorogued and there’s a general election. Which, Labour hasn’t even made up its collective mind yet if it would fight as a party of Remain or as the nicer party of Brexit. Nigel Farage has yet another go at getting into Parliament as a The Brexit Party Limited MP. He might even do it.
If prorogation goes ahead on 12th September, Boris Johnson could argue that the no-confidence vote has ceased along with every other motion, question, and legislation from the previous Parliament – that on Monday 14th October, or after, there would have to be a *new* vote of no-confidence. And at this point, he knows who the Tory rebels are, and has a month to work on them to vote for him instead.
So, let’s suppose there is no no-confidence vote next week. (I don’t think there will be.)
Conference recess is what would normally happen this month. Party conferences are not good spaces for figuring out cross-party aliances.
Parliament sits again on 14th October. Corbyn could call a vote of no-confidence any time between 14th and 17th October, and have a fortnight to try to form a government.
Again, Johnson won’t resign as PM even if he loses the vote of no-confidence.
If that loose cross-party Remain alliance has somehow firmed up and come together and agreed they can form a government, then maybe by 31st October there can be a stop-No-Deal Brexit government in charge – which will have only three options:
– To ask the EU to postpone Brexit Day while the UK has a general election (which will have all the disadvantages of a general election held in September, and with worse weather).
– To ask the EU to postpone Brexit Day while the UK has a second EU referendum (and the prospect of Labour, SNP, LibDems, Plaid Cymru, Change UK, rebel Tories, and a Green, all managing to agree on what will be voted on in that referendum, seems unlikely given the time available).
– To revoke Article 50 and remain in the EU.
(If they can’t all decide on a course of action and thus form a government, then Parliament is dissolved – again – and there’s a general election: but Boris Johnson is still Prime Minister until the result of the General Election is known, and so it’s *he* who would have to send a request to the EU for an extension on Brexit Day – and if he doesn’t, the UK crashes out of the EU in no-deal Brexit just three weeks before a general election.)
They have time for this last option, revoke and remain, even up to 31st October. But I am prepared to bet that if this loose alliance agreed to that, the next thing they’d all be able to agree on would be a general election. With an angry Boris Johnson still potentially leader of the Tory party – since 92,000 Conservative Party Members are unlikely to have changed their minds since July. With The Brexit Party Ltd on everybody’s minds.
I still want it to happen, as the least-worst of all of the options, but none of the options now are good, and all of them bar crashing out in No Deal Brexit require so many MPs of so many different parties to act and work together, putting country ahead of party or career.
I don’t believe we have 320 MPs who can or will do that. I don’t think I even believe we have thirty.
I think we all need to begin prepping for No Deal Brexit. Because I think Boris Johnson has actually made it all but inevitable.