ABCC Brexit Update - 30 August - Prime Minister Johnson seeks Queen’s Speech to Prorogue Parliament
- In the run up to the 31 October Brexit deadline, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has secured permission from the Queen to hold the Queen’s Speech, the traditional “Opening of Parliament” session, to set out the legislative agenda for his new Government. The announcement came on Wednesday 28 August (UK time) and as a result, will prorogue (suspend) Parliament for five weeks.
- The Queen’s Speech resets the Government’s legislative agenda, meaning any legislation not completed before the prorogation would need to be recommenced from first reading.
- The prorogation has been widely received as an attempt to thwart attempts by pro-Remain MPs to stop the Government from pursuing a ‘No Deal’ Brexit ahead of 31 October.
- Prime Minister Johnson wrote to MPs informing them of the move as they return from parliamentary summer recess. The Times reports that the PM told cabinet ministers that the EU will now take a re-negotiation of the withdrawal deal more seriously as Parliament could no longer “frustrate” Brexit.
- Ahead of the prorogation from 9 September to 14 October, Parliament will sit for three days next week, from 3-5 September. The suspension extends the time Parliament had originally been scheduled to rise for the annual political Party Conference season. Some Members of the House of Commons were seeking to use the September sitting to remove the customary recess for the Party Conference season to ensure that there was more time to hold debate and potentially either block a “no deal” Brexit or call a potential “no confidence” motion in the Prime Minister.
- The move resulted in an immediate outcry from political opponents and pro-Remain MPs, with accusations that Johnson is thwarting parliamentary debate on Brexit. Protests were held in London and an e-petition on the UK Government’s website has been lodged demanding a reversal of Johnson’s move.
- Despite his neutral role, the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow described the announcement in a written statement as a ‘constitutional outrage.’
- Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson have written to the Queen, seeking an audience to voice their concerns. With only next week to push through legislation for a Brexit extension before the prorogation, Corbyn pledged to start the legislative process to stop a “No Deal”. There is also speculation that he will table a vote of no confidence in the Government.
- Various reports state that should Johnson lose a confidence vote, he would refuse to resign and instead call a General Election. It is believed that Number 10 would seek to hold this election after the 31st of October and therefore after the deadline for Brexit. This would suggest that the UK would therefore leave under “no deal” as is the current legislated timetable.
- To delay Brexit, the Prime Minister would be required to formally request from the EU an extension to the terms of Article 50 - the EU’s secession clause. It is unclear at this time whether such an extension would either be requested or granted.
- The idea of the formation of a new government of “National Unity” has been stymied by the difficulty of finding an acceptable leader, with the Liberal Democrats publically dismissing the idea of Jeremy Corbyn leading such a group.
- Despite legal challenges to the move, pro-Brexit MPs, including Jacob Rees-Mogg, John Redwood and Peter Bone, backed PM Johnson’s move. Attorney General, Geoffrey Cox assured Parliament that the move is ‘both legal and constitutional’.
- The Queen’s Speech will be held three days before the last scheduled EU Council meeting of EU leaders (17-18 October) before the Brexit deadline (31 October). This is seen as the last chance for PM Johnson to negotiate an alternative outcome to “No Deal”.
- In a blow to Johnson, Ruth Davidson stood down as leader of the Conservatives in Scotland on 29 August. Davidson, who has clashed with Johnson in the past over Brexit, cited family pressure as the reason for her resignation and called on the Government to reach a deal with the EU. Davidson has been widely acclaimed for reviving Conservative Party electoral success in Scotland.
- Last week Prime Minister Johnson visited both Germany and France to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron. Chancellor Merkel opened up the possibility of revisiting the controversial issue of the Northern Irish backstop should the UK table an agreeable alternative within a month.
- Prime Minister Johnson also attended last week’s G7 summit of world leaders in France, at which French President Macron had invited Prime Minister Morrison to attend. Johnson held meetings in the sidelines of the talks with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and U.S. President Donald Trump. Both Prime Minister Morrison and President Trump expressed their eagerness to agree a post-Brexit trade deal with the UK.
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, and David McCredie, CEO.