The No-Deal Brexit Bill and prorogation
It has been just one week since MPs returned to Westminster and both sides of the House of Commons, and the Brexit debate, have made their voices heard. Leave vs Remain is a distant memory for now - the Brexit divide has shifted to Brexit on 31 October at any cost vs anything to avoid a No-Deal Brexit.
The Prime Minister’s position has been clear: he will take the UK out of the EU on 31 October with or without a deal. He attempted to further secure this chain of events by announcing a prorogation of Parliament to coincide with a planned two week recess for party political conferences. Parliament will not sit for a total of five weeks – no votes, debates or questions can take place. The decision to prorogue Parliament for this length of time and so close to the Brexit deadline has been controversial with many accusing the Prime Minister of trying to impose a no-deal Brexit on the country against the will of Parliament.
In response, the anti-no dealers took their aim with the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill led by Hilary Benn. The legislation received Royal Assent on 9 September and is therefore law. It gives the Prime Minister until 19 October to either pass a deal in Parliament or get MPs to approve a no-deal Brexit. Without either of these, the Prime Minister must ask the EU for an extension until 31 January 2020. And if the EU should propose an alternative date on which MPs can have their say , with the Prime Minister will be forced to accept this new date if a majority of MPs vote for it.
An extension is not just up to the UK – all EU 27 Member States must also sign up. There has been some murmurings in recent days that France in particular is unsympathetic to another extension request. In reality, however, the EU is likely to be motivated enough by the prospect of no-deal to ensure all Member States to reach unanimous agreement.
The Prime Minister maintains that he would prefer a “solution”, describing no-deal as a “failure of statecraft”. He has spent the summer, and an additional £2.1bn, instructing his Government to prepare the country for a no-deal Brexit and he remains adamant that he will not seek an extension to the 31 October Brexit deadline. The Prime Minister’s hard-lined approach has cost him 20+ rebellions and resignations, eradicating his majority.
The Prime Minister has made two attempts to halt the no-deal Bill by asking Parliament to approve a General Election. He was defeated on both occasions, with his opponents stating they will not consider an election until the no-deal legislation is fully implemented. Parliament’s suspension means MPs will not get another chance to vote for a General Election until they return, meaning an election would not be possible until November at the earliest.
Amongst all the parliamentary drama and debate the Commons Speaker, John Bercow, announced his planned resignation. The election of a new Speaker will take place before an election meaning that it is the current set of MPs, with a Government in minority, which will select the next MP to take the chair. The role of Speaker, in the current political climate, is a crucial one and whoever MPs select will play a key role in the next stages of the Brexit process.
So what’s next? The slimmest, glimmer of hope of a backstop compromise and a deal emerging which can be agreed by both EU 27 and the UK Parliament. And all by the 19 October deadline. If not, MPs will be asked whether they agree to leave without a deal. And if not, another extension until 31 January 2020 will come into force if the EU allows this course of action. Both sides now have a few weeks to plot and plan away from the scrutiny of Parliament, and it is likely we will see attempts from both camps to advance their position. The only certain thing in Brexit is that the wrangling will continue.
Make UK continues to press Government and Parliament to take a no-deal Brexit off the table. We make clear that UK manufacturing needs to have certainty and stability to stop being forced to take damaging, short term decisions. We tell them we need action now to prevent the irreversible damage these repeated, short extensions are causing. Make UK is pushing politicians to work together to secure a Brexit deal which works for UK manufacturing. A deal which delivers certainty about the future trading environment that manufacturers need to protect our global strength. A deal that achieves the four outcomes that manufacturers consistently tell us they need: frictionless trade; access to skills; close regulatory and technical alignment; and a properly planned and delivered transition and implementation period.
Prorogation of Parliament
Prorogation is a prerogative Act of the Crown, exercised on the advice of Ministers, to bring about the end of the parliamentary session. The royal prerogative is the term used to describe the powers held by Government Ministers, either in their own right, or through the advice they provide to the Queen which she is bound constitutionally to follow. The Government determines the length of a parliamentary session and advises the Queen on the date for the beginning of the next parliamentary session.
The beginning of the next session is marked by the State Opening of Parliament during which the Queen delivers the Queen’s Speech. The Queen’s Speech sets out the programme of legislation the Government intends to pursue in the forthcoming parliamentary session.
Parliament is only dissolved before a General Election. Dissolution brings an end to a Parliament. The effect of a dissolution is all business comes to an end and every seat in the House of Commons is vacated until a General Election is held.
Procedure for General Elections
Under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, General Elections are now automatically held every five years and the next general election is scheduled for May 2022. The Fixed-term Parliaments Act removed the prerogative power to dissolve Parliament; no longer can the Prime Minister advise the sovereign to dissolve Parliament and call a General Election.
The Fixed-term Parliaments Act also provides the basis on which an early General Election can be triggered:
- If a motion for an early general election is agreed either by at least two-thirds of the whole House of Commons or without a vote; or
- If a motion of ‘no confidence’, in the terms set out in the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, is passed and no subsequent motion expressing confidence in Her Majesty’s Government is passed by the Commons within 14 days.
In the event of an early-general election, the Fixed-term Parliaments Act allows the Prime Minister to recommend a suitable polling day to the Queen. There will be a Royal Proclamation to set the date. Parliament is then automatically dissolved 25 working days before polling day.
Head of Brexit Policy, Make UK