ABCC Brexit Update – Parliament Suspended as PM Johnson’s Second Attempt to Call Snap Election Fails – 10 September 2019
- PM Johnson failed yesterday in his second attempt to call a snap general election before the 31 October Brexit deadline. Under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, the Prime Minster was required to obtain the agreement of two-thirds of MPs (434 members). Johnson fell short of this number with only 293 of MPs voting in favour of an early poll.
- Opposition parties had once again confirmed their intention to oppose an early election until the implementation of a newly created law blocking a “No Deal” Brexit. The law, which received Royal Assent on Monday, stipulates that if an EU withdrawal deal is not agreed by 19 October, the Prime Minister is required to ask the EU for an extension of the UK’s departure date to 31 January 2020.
- In a separate vote, MPs voted for a motion by 311 to 302, calling for the publication of government communications relating to the Parliament’s prorogation and the disclosure of documents relating to Operation Yellowhammer, the Government’s ‘No Deal’ Brexit contingency plans, according to the BBC.
- Speaking in Parliament, Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow announced yesterday that he would resign as both Speaker and as an MP at either the next General Election or on 31 October, whichever would fall earliest.
- Parliament has now officially been prorogued (or suspended) for five weeks and will not sit again until 14 October – three days before EU leaders are due to meet in Brussels and 17 days ahead of the 31 October Brexit deadline.
- With Parliament suspended, the political parties will now separately convene at their annual party conferences:
- The Liberal Democrats will meet in Bournemouth from 14-17 September;
- The Labour Party will meet in Brighton from 21-25 September; and
- The Conservative Party will meet in Birmingham from 29 September – 2 October.
- Separately, on 10 September, PM Johnson held his first meeting with his Irish counterpart, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Dublin. Speaking after their private meeting, Johnson said that he still believed a Brexit deal with the EU is possible. Varadkar stressed there was no such thing as a “clean break” between the UK and EU.
- The Northern Irish Backstop, originally negotiated under PM Theresa May, remains the most contentious issue between the UK and EU ahead of the UK’s departure.
- Commentators are now speculating on the options remaining to PM Johnson, all of which run into obstacles. Possible options include (in no order):
- Despite his pledge that he would rather “die in a ditch”, the PM would accept the law requiring a Brexit extension to 31 January in the absence of a deal with the EU. He would then hold an election after 31 October. Any extension would require unanimous agreement among EU member states.
- Find some way to ‘get around’ the terms of the extension requirement passed by Parliament. Legal experts note the law’s strict stipulations and apparent lack of ‘loop holes’.
- Agree a withdrawal deal (and solution to the backstop dilemma) with the EU and secure parliamentary support ahead of the 31 October Brexit deadline.
- Resign and force a General Election. The result of which could provide for any number of potential outcomes and variations.
The ABCC and Brexit
The ABCC will continue to follow these developments closely. We look forward to keeping members up to date with the very latest from London and what it possibly means for the Australian-British business community. Earlier ABCC Brexit updates can be found on the ABCC Blog.
If you would like to receive more frequent Brexit updates or have any questions, please feel free to contact our office on firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Paul O'Hagan, General Manager, Victoria, South Australia & Western Australia