Writing About Brexit: Boris Johnson avoids PMQs

EdinburghEye on Ko-FiThis was first posted on Facebook on 1st October 2019, with support from my Ko-Fi network.Tomorrow is Boris Johnson’s first PMQ since he unlawfully attempted to prorogue Parliament.

However, rather than handle PMQ himself, Boris Johnson has told off Dominic Raab, the former Brexit Secretary, now the Foreign Secretary, to take PMQ for him: Johnson plans to enjoy the last day of the Tory conference and give the closing speech, not be bothered with questions from Jeremy Corbyn and Ian Blackford.

When Boris Johnson was Mayor of London, he appointed multiple deputy Mayors to do his work for him. This looks like more of the same.

Tomorrow, Jonathan Edwards, the Plaid Cymru MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefw, is bringing a 10 Minute Rule bill “to establish an independent advisory body to make recommendations on the equitable distribution of public expenditure across the United Kingdom”. Like almost all 10-minute rule bills ever, it won’t get anywhere. Neither will the Clean Air bill bing brought forward by Geraint Davies, Labour MP for Swansea West. The adjournment debate (the one most MPs are walking out of the chamber during) is on the Welsh language, by Glyn Davis, the Conservative MP for Montgomeryshire. By coincidence or design, this is evidently Welsh Day in the Commons.

And there will be a Second Reading debate for the Domestic Abuse bill, plus a funding debate for any expenditures required by the Act.

While most Tory MPs – and the Prime Minister -are in Manchester, this is a relatively quiet and probably non-controversial day – aside from sending Dominic Raab in to answer questions about Brexit while Boris Johnnson swans around in Manchester.

The main question for Dominic Raab is the “Boris Border” – the happy solution the Prime Minister fixed on for avoiding the backstop, having customs clearing stations not on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, but five miles either side of it.

This will, of course, not fly with the EU, and honestly, it’s hard to believe that even Boris Johnson thought it would. There will come a point, therefore, when the most wholehearted Boris devotees who none-the-less do not support No Deal Brexit, have to admit: Boris Johnson is not seeking a deal.

Nicky Morgan, the minister for Digital Culture Media and Sport, is possibly the last denizen of the Conservative Cabinet who we know opposes no-deal Brexit but who opted not to leave the government and vote for the Benn Act.

On Thursday this week, Nicky Morgan is scheduled to respond to questions from 9:30am, and following her at 11:10, the Attorney General, who advised Boris Johnson proroguing Parliament was legal and who *may* have now advised Johnson that circumventing the Benn Act is legal.

Boris Johnson calls the “Benn Act” the Surrender Bill, and claims that because this would force the Prime Minister to ask for an extension if he hasn’t got a deal acceptable to the EU and ratified by Parliament by 19th October, it will make it much more difficult for him to get a Withdrawal Agreement agreed to the EU. As the nonsense about the 10-mile extension to the Irish Border shows, it’s really not the Benn Act that’s the problem – it’s the English refusal to acknowledge that EU-27 intend to support the Good Friday Agreement and peace in Northern Ireland, and will do so despite all Tory insistence that this is really not a problem.

So while Wednesday’s PMQs should be entertaining, I shall consciencelessly miss watching them live and instead shall be off to Glasgow for SQIFF. (Thanks to the gift of an awesome friend, I am getting to take some non-Brexit-related days off this week, and intend to spend most of them at the Scottish Queer International Film Festival. Sorry if this disappoints.)

Thursday morning, though, I do plan to watch. Especially as, if Boris Johnson hasn’t tempted the leaders of other parties into a VONC, my guess is that on Thursday Johnson may again prorogue Parliament for the Queen’s Speech on the 14th.

And while I was troubled for a while that Ian Blackford of the SNP might be tempted – since the SNP is the one party that could electorally benefit from that regardless of outcome – it appears that Labour, LibDems, SNP, and Plaid Cymru are holding firm: no VONC when it could only benefit Boris Johnson by letting him dissolve Parliament before Brexit Day has been extended.

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