Today Theresa May officially resigns as the Conservative Party leader. This will formally trigger the Conservative Party leadership contest. We have the full contest timetable included below. May leaves office having not achieved her goal of taking the UK out of the EU and having suffered historically large defeats in the process. We have written about her record before which you can read here. Meanwhile, she leaves behind a Conservative Party deeply divided. It will be down to the new Conservative leader to navigate their party, and the deadlocked Parliament to take the UK out of the EU as the party promised at the last General Election. Whether that’s possible remains to be seen.
Labour won a surprise victory in the Peterborough by-election. The Brexit Party were the favourites to win. The seat became vacant as the previous Labour MP had been recalled by constituents because she was convicted of perverting the course of justice and sent to prison. Being convicted and sentenced to a custodial prison sentence of a year or less is one of the conditions of the Recall of MPs Act 2015 to trigger a recall petition.
The Brexit Party was expected to win partly because the seat voted heavily for 'Leave' in the 2016 referendum. Meanwhile, the Conservative Party has no leader and is reopening its internal debate as to what their Brexit policy should be. Therefore yesterday’s by-election provided a base of unhappy pro-Brexit voters for the new Brexit party to court. However, Labour won with 31% of the vote, beating the Brexit Party by a majority of 683 votes. The results reflect wider polls of four way runs between Labour, Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, and the Brexit Party.
This result for Labour is likely to shore up the Labour leadership's belief in their 'constructive ambiguity' Brexit position. After a bruising European Elections for both Labour, and Conservatives, the pro-second referendum faction in Labour had the upper hand due to Labour losing votes to Remain parties. However, with Labour beating Brexit Party in a by-election caused by behaviour by one of their own MPs, in a Leave seat, and with Tories uncompetitive, it gives the anti-referendum faction evidence that Labour can win under the current policy even with huge factors against them. Therefore don't expect much movement in the current positioning of the Labour party a Brexit policy.
Northern Irish civil society warns about devastating impacts of a No Deal Brexit
Today, Northern Irish civil society groups have warned Conservative leadership candidates that a No Deal Brexit will be a disaster for Northern Ireland. They are calling on the UK government to accept that a No Deal Brexit is not a viable option. The government must, therefore, do everything in its power to prevent this from happening. A No Deal will have devastating impacts on the peace process, rights and protections for the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, a hardening of the border and loss of environmental protections. Signatories to the statement include the Human Rights Consortium, the Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Friends of the Earth Northern Ireland, Centre for Cross Border Studies, Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action, Women’s Resource and Development Agency, Northern Ireland Women’s European Platform, Focus: the Identity Trust, PILS Project, Committee on the Administration of Justice, Children’s Law Centre, Northern Ireland Council for Racial Equality, Unison and Disability Action. Read it in full here and read the Guardian’s coverage of it here.
Recommended reading on the impacts of no deal:
Brexit Civil Society Alliance: A No Deal Brexit: Impacts On Rights, Standards, Governance And Transparent Law-Making
Human Rights Consortium: No Deal Brexit Threatens Rights
Green Alliance: What a ‘no deal’ Brexit could mean for the environment
Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action: The priority for Northern Ireland must be to avoid a no deal outcome (Joint letter from Voluntary, Community, Environment and Rural Sector)
Friends of the Earth: A no-deal Brexit would be disastrous for our environment
The 3 million: What happens to EU citizens living in the UK in case of no deal?
Charity Finance Group: A no-deal Brexit poses an “unacceptable risk” to the voluntary sector and its beneficiaries
The Future of Brexit and the Conservative Leadership Race
The future direction of Brexit currently rests in the results of the ongoing Conservative Party leadership election.
This week the candidates faced their first round of hustings organised by the One Nation group of Conservative MPs, a new grouping of moderate Conservative MPs with the aim to prevent the party moving further rightwards politically. These hustings have revealed further details of candidates approaches to Brexit.
Pro-No Deal Brexit
Esther McVey - said this week she would sack all ‘Remainers’ in Cabinet until Brexit is done. Would walk away on the 31st October rather than have another extension
Dominic Raab - would not rule out Proroguing Parliament (explainer below) to force a No Deal Brexit
Andrea Leadsom - has called for a ‘managed exit’ on the Andrew Marr show. A ‘managed exit’ is another term for No Deal Brexit
Maybe No Deal - They haven't completely ruled it out nor have they advocated strongly for it
Boris Johnson - Has said pro No Deal things in the past but has pulled back a bit to persuade MPs to back him. Says it has to be on the table to get a good deal from the EU. Has explicitly ruled out a 2nd referendum. Is surging ahead in MP nominations
Michael Gove - Has said he would rather ask for another extension and get a deal than go explicitly for a No Deal.
Jeremy Hunt - Isn’t explicitly anti No Deal but argues that politically it is impossible as Parliament would block it, and the Conservatives would be punished in an election if Brexit was not solved. As a result, Hunt does not think a No Deal Brexit is the way forward for the Conservative Party
Never No Deal
Rory Stewart - Has argued extensively against a No Deal Brexit. He would go for a deal similar to May’s but would first have a citizens assembly (like in Ireland on abortion, explainer here) to solve the deadlock in Parliament
Sam Gyimah - The only candidate arguing for a 2nd referendum and wants to avoid a No Deal
Proroguing Parliament - Explainer
Several Conservative MPs have floated or argued explicitly for the idea of proroguing Parliament in order to achieve a No Deal Brexit. The prorogation of Parliament is the name of the period between two sessions of Parliament. It marks the end of one, and the beginning of the other. You may know it as the Summer recess usually however there is no fixed time for it.
When Parliament is prorogued it ends all parliamentary business from continuing. This includes bills and parliamentary questions (which if unanswered will never be answered).
Hardline Brexiteers want to prorogue Parliament so that it is suspended until after the 31st October. This is the current Article 50 extension deadline. With Parliament suspended, and unable to do anything to prevent a No Deal, such as a no confidence vote, the UK would then leave the EU on a No Deal Brexit because that is the current legal default.
The power to prorogue Parliament is formally the Queens but it is delegated to the Executive- i.e Prime Minister. This would be an incredibly controversial manner to achieve a No Deal Brexit as it would both remove Parliament's involvement in the process and would involve the Queen in a contentious political debate, something the Queen is never keen on due to impartiality concerns.
The Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow MP, signalled this week he would his powers to prevent prorogation being used by the new PM to force No Deal through Parliament. As reported by the BBC here he said this week that “Parliament will not be evacuated from the centre stage of the decision making process on this important matter. That is simply not going to happen”
The Institute for Government have blogged about the undemocratic nature of prorogation for this purpose, and how it will likely trigger an election here. They argue that the Palace would not want to be drawn into politics and would pause creating enough time for the Speaker to allow motion of no confidence to be voted on which could then cause a General Election.
The Institute for Government has also previously blogged about how a No Deal could be stopped here.
Conservative Leadership Timetable
The Conservative Party has released its timetable for its ongoing leadership contest.
Friday 7th June - May resigns
Monday 10th June - Nominations for candidates open at 10am and close at 5pm
Tuesday 11th June - 1922 Committee hosts its first hustings
Thursday 13th June - First ballot of Conservative MPs
Sunday 16th June - Channel 4 is holding a 90 minute debate with remaining candidates from the first ballot
Monday 17th June - Second hustings for Conservative MPs only
Tuesday 18th June - Second ballot of Conservative MPs
Wednesday 19th June - More MP ballots. A series of ballots to whittle candidates down until two remain
Saturday 22nd June - Voting by Conservative Members voting on the two candidates begins
Monday 22nd July - The winner is confirmed, and the UK will have a new PM
TBC - BBC and Sky News will have plans for tv debates too but dates have yet to be confirmed
Have you got your tickets for our free Brexit and civil society roundtable in Sheffield yet?
This roundtable is on Tuesday 25th June, 13:30 to 16:30 at the Workstation, 15 Paternoster Row, S1 2BX
It is evident that Brexit will have significant impacts on civil society from questions around the replacement of EU funding that the third sector receives, to the maintenance of fundamental rights, to key legislative changes that will arise as a result of EU withdrawal.
At our roundtable we will have speakers on these key topics.
Shahida Siddique (FaithStar) will speak on the impact of Brexit on cohesion and Sheffield’s civil society
John Tizard (NAVCA) will speak on the wider impact of Brexit on civil society
Lauren Payne (Equality and Human Rights Commission) will speak about the future of funding for civil society and EHRC’s recent report on the future of funding (which you can find here)
Tickets are limited. Get your place at the table here.
New Frontiers Manchester - The Social Sector Through Brexit
New Frontiers is back! We are partnering with the Lloyds Bank Foundation for England & Wales, 10GM and NPC are 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. Thursday 11th July, 9:30am to 4:30pm in Manchester.
Brexit presents 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 about 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 an 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.
Get your free tickets here now!
The House of Commons Library has published a new research briefing on the EU Settlement Scheme. This includes Deal vs No Deal, Conditions and Applications process. Read it here
The Equality and Human Rights Commission have published a new research report on the future of funding for equality and human rights in Britain. It covers the UK Shared Prosperity Fund. Download a copy here
In-depth analysis on Conservative leadership race by the Institute for Government here