Prorogue me no more



As Theresa May is getting ready to pack her bags, her legacy is determined by a failure to deliver Brexit. In that process and as we’ve said many times before, May’s government has been one dominated by grave uncertainty for civil society, individuals and business, lack of parliamentary scrutiny, ignoring the devolved nations, removal of rights and a failure to engage with civil society. Unsurprisingly, her report card is not full of A’s.

In this week's bulletin we have Conservative rebels trying to stop a no-deal Brexit, warnings from the Office of Budget Responsibility of a recession coming and Stephen Barclay giving evidence to the EU Select Committee. As usual, some excellent events for you to attend, and a handful of reads we recommend.

Jacob Millen-Bamford

Got 1 minute? Read the bullets
Got 8 minutes? Read the analysis
Got a while and a comfy seat? Read the recommended reading

In Politics

Amendments To Amendments To Amendments

  • Amendment passes to try to prevent no-deal

  • Conservative anti-no dealer’s rebelled

  • 17 rebels and 30 abstentions including Cabinet ministers

In a dramatic vote in the House of Commons MP’s passed, and defeated the government, an amendment to the Northern Ireland Executive (Formation) Bill. This was a beefed-up version of Dominic Grieve’s amendment that squeaked through last week due to a voting error by a government whip. We covered that here last week.

Last week’s amendment required ministers to give regular reports to Parliament on the formation of an executive in Stormont during October. This was with the hope it would prevent Parliament being prorogued (suspended) to force a no-deal Brexit. The Bill then went to the Lords where an amendment was passed 272 to 169. This amendment in the Lords aimed to strengthen the original amendment by making sure that the reports had to be physically debated in the Commons again to prevent it being suspended.

Yesterday the Lords amendments came back to the Commons. The Lords amendment was amended by the Commons and passed by a surprise 41 majority. The purpose of the amendment is that if Parliament is prorogued it has to be recalled so that Parliament can consider a report on the formation of a Northern Ireland executive, a key part of the Bill that was amended. This means the PM could still prorogue Parliament but to fulfil the obligations of the Northern Ireland Bill, Parliament has to be recalled for five days to consider and vote on this report. The hope is this gives MPs an opportunity to prevent a no-deal Brexit.

The vote included large numbers of abstentions by Cabinet ministers and 17 Conservatives who rebelled and voted for the amendment. The vote shows again that MP’s do not want a no-deal Brexit and are prepared to vote on something that may help prevent it. This is a significant shift even in the last two weeks. Remember Grieve’s original amendment squeaked through with a 1 vote majority (which was due to a whipping error). The Conservative leadership election has sharpened the minds of many Conservative MP’s and encouraged them to vote for measures that may help prevent no-deal Brexit. The question is whether MPs, come September would actually back a no-confidence motion to stop no-deal. The New Statesman has done some excellent number crunching here.

In Policy

Commons Select Committee Grill DExEU Secretary

  • Brexit Minister, Stephen Barclay light on predictions as to what happens next in the Brexit process

  • Going forward, he wants better engagement with Parliament, devolved nations, and civil society

  • Barclay thinks a no-deal Brexit has been underpriced in likeliness

This week, Stephen Barclay the Secretary of State for the Department for Exiting the European Union was in front of the House of Commons Exiting the European Union Select Committee to answer questions. Barclay mostly responded saying he could not answer as it would be for the next Prime Minister / Cabinet / Secretary of State to answer.

Interestingly when asked what he would like the government to do differently in ‘new negotiations’ he said he wanted better and more open engagement with Parliament, devolved nations, and civil society. This is a welcome move and as we’ve said previouslythe government failed in the first phase of the negotiations to consult with civil society and stakeholders.

When asked about the chance of a no-deal Brexit he said he believed the chance of it happening has been underpriced but did not go as far as to say what the chance he believed it had of happening. He did point out that currently there are only 24 sitting days in Parliament, between September and October. Getting all the various pieces of Brexit legislation through in only 24 days is a mammoth task. If legislation is rushed through, scrutiny will likely be poor and there will be little opportunity for civil society to meaningfully engage.

OBR No-Deal Forecasts

  • No-deal Brexit likely to lead to a recession

  • Government borrowing predicted to rise an extra £30 billion

This week the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has published its fiscal risks report. The report warns that the UK would end up in a recession in a no-deal Brexit. The headline figures include an estimate that the UK government borrowing would be £30bn a year more than currently planned. The full 300-page OBR report can be downloaded here and here is a useful explainer on the report.

The economy is not currently thriving, and a recession with increased government borrowing (and potential spending cuts and tax rises to pay for it) would negatively impact on funding and capacity of organisations.

Furthermore, demand for services could drastically increase. A recession is likely to lead to increases in unemployment, and personal debt, with potential increases in issues such as homelessness and poverty- placing additional strain on front-line service organisations, many of which are already low on capacity and resources. Remember alongside this will be the various effects a no-deal Brexit will have on the sector, including concerns about the replacement of EU funding. The warning from the OBR is not to be taken lightly and points to an uncertain future indeed.

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.

Exiting the European Union Select Committee

  • When: 9:15am Wednesday 24th July 2019

  • Where: The Boothroyd Room, Portcullis House

Evidence session on the progress of UK’s negotiation on EU withdrawal. It will feature evidence from many academic experts. You will be able to watch it live in person or watch it on

Working With The New Government: Free Webinar

  • When: 3pm Thursday 1st August

  • Where: Online, Register here

NCVO are hosting a 45 minute webinar aimed at Campaigners, policy advisers, public affairs officers, and anyone who is looking to engage with government to influence policy.

Chris Walker, Public Affairs Manager presents this webinar which will look at how you can build new relationships and get your issue on the agenda, at a time of significant uncertainty and with limited room to manoeuvre due to Brexit.

To register, click here

Recommended Reading

  • Read Public Law Project’s report on the EU settled scheme here

  • The House of Commons library has produced a useful explainer on what agreement with the EU may come after Brexit. Find it here

  • Institute for Government’s new report ‘Has Devolution Works’ is out and can be downloaded here