Brexit endgame is on with urgent motion, poll talk
Action in parliament focussed on securing the debate and passing legislation to ensure that the Boris Johnson government is prohibited from leaving the EU on October 31 without an agreement.Updated: Sep 03, 2019 17:40 IST
Britain’s parliament re-opened on Tuesday after the summer recess in the charged context of Brexit-related action on various fronts, with MPs seeking an emergency debate and courts hearing challenges to House prorogation amid intense talk of a mid-term election.
Action in parliament focussed on securing the debate and passing legislation to ensure that the Boris Johnson government is prohibited from leaving the EU on October 31 without an agreement. Voting is expected on Tuesday evening (the government has a majority of one).
The Conservative party has been rocked with former chancellor Philip Hammond and others reacting with fury suggestions that Johnson as leader of the party would de-select them as candidates in the election if they voted with the opposition in parliament.
The Court of Session in Scotland began a substantive hearing of the challenge to prorogation, while the high court of England permitted former Conservative Prime Minister John Major to join a similar challenge brought by Indian-origin activist Gina Miller.
Officials briefed journalists that if the opposition bill seeking to stop a no-deal Brexit were to be passed, the government would quickly move a motion to hold a mid-term election. Such a motion would need Labour’s support since a two-thirds majority is needed to trigger the election.
October 14 is the date mentioned as the most likely for the mid-term election, which would be the third in the last five years, after the general election in 2015 and the mid-term election in 2017. However, much manoeuvring inside and outside parliament is needed before the election is agreed and announced.
In an interview seen as ‘extraordinary’, Hammond on Tuesday came down heavily on his party leader Johnson for claims that MPs concerned with the debilitating impact of a no-deal Brexit and who vote with the opposition would be de-selected as candidates.
He told BBC: “There’s a group of Conservative who feel very strongly that now is the time where we have to put the national interest ahead of any threats to us personally and our careers. I think there will be enough people for us to get this over the line.”
Hammond described claims by Johnson that negotiations were ongoing with Brussels on a possible agreement as “nonsense”, adding that de-selections would be “rank hypocrisy” given that eight serving cabinet ministers had defied the whip on Brexit votes in the past year.
“I don’t believe (they can stop me standing in the election). There would certainly be the fight of a lifetime if they tried to…I am going to defend my party against incomers, entryists, who are trying to turn it from a broad church to a narrow faction,” Hammond said.
There was already talk of the possibility of another hung parliament if the mid-term election were held, since both the major parties – Conservative, Labour – have been haemorrhaging in recent elections, with parties with a clear Brexit position gaining substantially due to public ennui over endless debates and non-delivery of the 2016 referendum verdict.
The biggest gainers have been the Liberal Democrats with a clear pro-EU, anti-Brexit stance and the new Nigel Farage-led Brexit Party with a clear anti-EU, pro-Brexit position.