Writing About Brexit: Standing Order 24 passes

EdinburghEye on Ko-FiThis was first posted on Facebook on 3rd September 2019, with support from my Ko-Fi network.

Well, here is what is going on, as I understand it.

There is no majority for No Deal Brexit in the House of Commons.

Theresa May incompetent monster though she was, understood that. Whether she ever understood that there was no possibility that Brexit could ever be a “success”, we may never know.

There may or may not be a majority for Brexit with a deal in the Commons – a competent Prime Minister who wasn’t in hock to the DUP or in fear of ERG might have found that by instituting a cross-party Withdrawal Committee to work out the details of Brexit. But we had Theresa May.

Boris Johnson undoubtedly understands that there is no majority for No Deal Brexit in the Commons, which is why – two weeks ago, we now know thanks to the Scottish court case against prorogation – he decided that to avoid all the messy business of a democratic and sovereign Parliament voting against him, he’d prorogue Parliament over the conference recess, and do it by paying a flying visit to the Queen at Balmoral, which would have it royally nodded through at a point when other party leaders and members of the Privy Council who’d be entitled to advise the Queen that this move didn’t have the consent of the Commons, would be five hundred miles or so south.

(To be clear, the Queen’s options when the Prime Minister tells her the date he intends to prorogue Parliament and the date on which he intends to have her give the Queen’s Speech for the next Parliament are, pretty much, to nod and have her ladies-in-waiting write the dates into her diary and look out her pro-EU hat and jewellery to wear for the occasion. But had Boris Johnson made this move in London, it is possible that other members of the privy council might have got a word in, and Boris Johnson evidently intended to avoid that.)

If Boris Johnson gets his way unchallenged, next week Parliament is prorogued and returns to a week of Queen’s Speech related debates on 14th October and we crash out in No Deal Brexit on 31st October. The European Parliament is likely to declare this an international emergency to allow the EU countries affected to claim funding from the EU emergency fund – a resource the UK will not have access to.

On 29th October 2019, Boris Johnson will have been Prime MInister for as long as Charles Watson-Wentworth, previously the UK’s shortest-term Prime Minister – 97 days.

Tonight – debate this evening, vote about 10pm – the House of Commons votes on Standing Order 24, which allows the Commons to wrest control of tomorrow’s agenda from the government. It has to be voted on twice, once to find if MPs will allow it to be voted on, once to actually vote on it. If both votes pass:

Then tomorrow the House of Commons debates a short bill, sponsor Hilary Benn, that instructs the Prime Minister – dictating the form of words his letter must use – to request an extension of Brexit Day from the EU unless he has the consent of the Commons for the UK to leave the EU with no deal. The length of the extension period is up to the EU.

The bill will be fast-tracked through the Commons and is likely – if it passes – to be fast-tracked throuh the House of Lords, in order that it can become law before Parliament is prorogued. And then, when Parliament returns, the Prime Minister -whether Boris Johnson or a new Tory Party Party leader – may not by UK law allow the UK to crash out in no-deal Brexit without requesting an extension from the EU.

Boris Johnson objects comprehensively to all of this.

What he has decided is that if the standing order and the Benn bill pass – and they will only pass if some Tory MPs plus MPs of all other parties except obviously the DUP vote for them – he will try instead to trigger a general election – to take place, he says, on 14th October, which would give him an electoral mandate to take the UK out of the EU in no-deal Brexit.

The 14th of October is a Monday. Elections in the UK take place on Thursdays. I presume that when Boris Johnson was briefed on the time period required between losing key votes in the Commons this week and having a general election, he was told “week beginning 14th October” and remembered only “14th October”.

The Fixed Term Parliament Act is intended to prevent Prime Ministers from calling snap elections, unless both Government and Opposition MPs (a two-thirds majority of 650) agree there should be one.

Boris Johnson has threatened Tory rebels with withdrawal of the whip if they vote against the government or if they abstain rather than vote with the government.

He has also threatened them with de-selection so that a different Tory candidate will stand for election in their constituency in the next general election. Which he is threatening to happen next month.

He has also threatened to make votes against the government this week votes of confidence – that is, if the government loses the vote, the government is dissolved, and Corbyn has two weeks to form a caretaker government to stop Brexit – or else there’s a general election in October.

He may also just tell Corbyn he’s calling a general election, and point out that Corbyn has been calling for a general election on Brexit since December, and demand Corbyn follow through and whip Labour MPs to vote with Tory MPs.

Corbyn has announced a meeting of Labour MPs this evening, most likely to let them know that there’s a change of strategy on general election time.

So: Tonight, Standing Order 24 passes – or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, we’re in for No Deal Brexit.

Tomorrow, the Benn bill passes & gets Royal Assent – or it doesn’t. If it passes, we may well be in for a general election in October, unless MPs of all parties including some Tories can agree before 18th September what they will support a caretaker government and caretaker-PM Corbyn to do.

If the Benn bill passes and Johnson changes his mind about making those votes votes of confidence, and Corbyn refuses to whip Labour MPs to vote for an October general election, then Boris Johnson must write to te EU requesting an extension on Brexit Day, unless he resigns as leader of the Conservative Party and they have another leadership election to decide who’s to be PM now.

If there is a general election in October, the most likely outcome is a hung Parliament, neither Labour nor Tories able to get a majority, but Johnson putting something approximating a goverment together with Tory, DUP, and The Brexit Party Ltd MPs. And of course, No Deal Brexit on 31st October.

Stockpile now, avoid the rush, but also: Register to vote.

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