Preventing Prorogation



Another week, another attempt by MPs prevent a no deal exit on the 31st October. Meanwhile, Labour announced a new Brexit and referendum policy. Business is unhappy with how the government is engaging on the Irish Border and the House of Commons Library explain when we might get a General Election.

Jacob Millen-Bamford

Got 1 minute? Read the bullets
Got 15 minutes? Read the analysis
Got 60 minutes? Read the recommended reads

In Politics

Amendment To Prevent No Deal

  • MPs to prevent a no deal exit on 31st October

  • Passed amendment attempt to prevent Parliament being prorogued (suspended) to force a No Deal

  • Passed amendment doesn’t have the most teeth

This week, MPs, led by Conservative MP Dominic Grieve, launched another attempt to block a no deal outcome on 31st October. By using the Northern Ireland Executive (Formation) Bill, Grieve tabled a series of amendments which was designed to a) stop the Prorogation (suspension) of Parliament to force a No Deal Brexit and b) create opportunities for MPs to interfere in the face of a cliff-edge departure on 31st October

Only one amendment passed and this was due to a whipping error by the government whips, one of which voted as a proxy and forgot to vote themselves. The amendment passed requires the government to report to Parliament, on the status of power-sharing in Northern Ireland, every two weeks between October and December.

Some argued that by implication, the government would therefore not be able to prorogue (Westminster speak for suspension) Parliament in this period. This is because there would be a legal duty (if the Bill became law) for the government to report back to Commons. However, prerogative powers such as prorogation must be made explicit and require the Queen’s consent. As a result, this week’s votes were not game changers. But the Northern Ireland Executive (Formation) Bill now heads to the House of Lords, where it is expected that peers will ‘tidy up’ Grieve’s amendment to give it more teeth before it head backs to the Commons.

This amendment demonstrates two issues. It is still very difficult to get an explicitly anti-No Deal majority in Parliament. That this passed by one vote, due to a whipping error, is a signal that MPs are still not yet ready to vote for blocking No Deal even when the measures they are voting on are relatively weak. However, it also demonstrates that some anti-No Deal MPs such as Grieve are not giving up and are finding new ways to try and prevent a No Deal Brexit.

Labour Has A New Brexit Position

  • Labour party Brexit policy has solidified

  • Labour would back Remain in any referendum on a Conservative party Brexit, deal or No Deal

Jeremy Corbyn MP emailed Labour members this week to update them on Labour’s Brexit policy. After consultation with the shadow cabinet, affiliated unions, and the National Executive Committee (NEC) Labour’s policy is that the new Prime Minister should put their deal or a No Deal to a referendum and in a referendum the Labour party would back a Remain position.

However, what is still unclear is what the Labour Party’s policy would be in the event of a General Election. Stating in an interview with the BBC Corbyn said: “We will decide very quickly at the start of that campaign exactly what our position will be”. The question remains therefore whether Labour would put their Brexit deal to another referendum if they were to win a General Election.

This is a significant shift though, as it solidifies Labour’s position that they would campaign for Remain in the event of a referendum on any Conservative party led Brexit deal.

In Policy

Alternative Arrangements Working Groups

  • Businesses in Northern Ireland are concerned they are being used to endorse a No Deal Brexit

  • Technological solutions for ‘alternative arrangements’ are still being pursued

  • Minister threatens to stop engaging with key stakeholders after they raise concerns about how Brexit will impact their industry Brexit concerns are voiced

Business in Northern Ireland is concerned they are being used to endorse a No Deal Brexit by the government. In a report published by Faisal Islam, BBC Economics Editor, here it has been revealed the Business and Trade Union Alternative Arrangements Advisory Group, mostly made up of Northern Ireland business leaders, are concerned about the use of the group by the government to endorse ‘alternative arrangements’ to the Irish Backstop, and consequentially a No Deal Brexit. Furthermore, they are concerned by the lack of proper inclusion of commitments set out in the Joint Report- the 2017 agreement between the UK government and the EU to avoid a hard border, "including any physical infrastructure or related checks and controls.

The aim of the group is to explore the potential of technology being used to replace a border in Ireland. This is a policy both Conservative leadership candidates have endorsed. The participants are concerned that their engagement will be used to justify a No Deal Brexit. Furthermore, they are concerned by the lack of proper inclusion of the commitments set out in the Joint Report, the 2017 agreement by the UK government and the EU.

Meanwhile, reports have emerged, of Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary, threatening to stop engaging with the Road Haulage Association, which represents freight companies, after they briefed the press on their concerns about Brexit. Together these reports are deeply concerning. It demonstrates that key stakeholders are being shut out of the conversation if they voice concerns about how Brexit will impact their sector.

General Election Timetables

  • House of Commons Library has worked out possible General Election timetables

  • Scenario 1: election on 24th October

  • Scenario 2: election on 19th or 26th September

The House of Commons Library has produced a useful blog and series of graphics explaining when a General Election could take place this year. They lay out two scenarios:
1)The Commons passes a motion of no confidence after the summer recess
2): the Commons passes a motion of no confidence before the summer recess.

In scenario 1 the Commons return from recess on the 3rd September and it would be expected that the no-confidence motion is that afternoon. Following the 14 day period where a government could try and get the confidence of the Commons, the earliest date of an election could be is Thursday 24th October.

In scenario 2 the Commons would likely vote on a motion of no confidence on the 25th July. The 14 day period for a government to get the confidence of the Commons would begin. Assuming no government gets confidence the date of an election would likely be either the 19th or 26th September.

Their full piece and useful graphics can be found here.

In Events

New Frontiers: The social sector through Brexit

  • When: 11th September 2019, 9:30 - 16:30

  • Where: The Mechanics Centre, 103 Princess Street, Manchester, M1 6DD

Together with Lloyds Bank Foundation, England & Wales, 10GM and NPC, the Alliance is hosting a free conference, bringing together the social sector to discuss the potentially momentous changes Brexit will have on charities, voluntary organisations and the communities they champion and represent.

Brexit continues to present serious challenges for the UK social sector. The three years since the country voted to leave the European Union (EU) have thrown up a series of questions—how best to respond to it, how to prepare for it, how to mitigate against it where needed—that remain unanswered.

Ongoing uncertainty for charities and voluntary organisations is as big an issue as it is for businesses, the likely impact on the people, places and causes they represent, just as great—but neither have received the debate and attention they rightly deserve.

We believe there is urgent need for the social sector to discuss the momentous changes that Brexit will bring, provide a public platform to raise concerns and begin to develop a greater sense of collective understanding of, and responsibility for, the challenges ahead.

The key question that New Frontiers in GM will address is:

  • What should the role and mission of the social and wider voluntary sector be through (and post) Brexit? What might existing trends tell us about potential new directions in activity and need? How do we gear up to actively shape the agenda not just observe? Are we prepared for the possibly momentous change that is coming our way? And how is the sector going to overcome disruption to funding as a result?

Sign up here.

Recommended Reading

  • New report from the Northern Ireland Civil Service on a No Deal Brexit and the immediate economic consequences. Read it here

  • The House of Commons Library never fails to disappoint and have an excellent briefing on what it actually means to prorogue Parliament- available here

  • Could the courts stop Boris Johnson from suspending Parliament? Read the Institute for Government’s analysis here

  • How could Brexit affect LGBT+ rights? Dr Peter Dunner, Lecturer at University of Bristol Law School write for the UK in a changing Europe here