Here’s How Parliament Is Plotting to Stop a No-Deal Brexit


(Bloomberg) --

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plan to take Britain out of the European Union with or without a deal on Oct. 31 will be tested in a crunch battle in Parliament this week. Here is how rebel politicians in his Tory party are joining with the opposition to try to stop a no-deal Brexit.

The Goal

The cross-party group of politicians hope to introduce a draft law when Parliament returns from its summer recess this week to force Johnson to delay Brexit again if he can’t broker a new deal with the EU by the Oct. 31 deadline.

“We’ve kept the bill as short and simple as possible in order to appeal to as many MPs as possible,” Rebecca Long-Bailey, the opposition Labour Party’s spokeswoman on business told BBC radio on Monday. She called Johnson’s decision to shut down Parliament for a month a “constitutional outrage.”

The Mechanics

Johnson’s opponents will try to take control of the House of Commons agenda so they can give themselves time to debate and pass their law. It’s a tactic they used successfully earlier in the year.

The legislation would require Johnson to seek an extension to the Brexit deadline if he can’t get a new deal with the EU “by a certain date in October,” Nick Boles, a former Tory minister who now sits as an independent, told BBC radio on Monday.

The extension wouldn’t be “very long” Boles said, adding that it wouldn’t be “long enough crucially for a referendum, so this is not an attempt to somehow sneak a second referendum in.”

The length is a critical point of division among Johnson’s critics. While they all oppose a no-deal Brexit, some want to force a second referendum and others still want the U.K. to exit the bloc with an agreement. They may settle on a compromise that leaves both options open.

Will it Work?

A majority of MPs oppose a no-deal Brexit but that’s not a guarantee the legislation will pass. Johnson’s administration is threatening to expel Conservative rebels from the party, which may make some think twice, as they wouldn’t be able to run as Tories in a general election.

“They seem quite prepared for there to be a rebellion and then to purge the rebels from the party,” David Gauke -- a cabinet minister until July -- told the BBC. “Their strategy to be honest is to lose this week and then seek a general election having removed those of us who are not against Brexit, not against leaving the European Union, but believe we should do so with a deal.”

Even if the legislation does pass, Chuka Umunna, a Liberal Democrat who quit Labour earlier in the year, told the BBC the government might find a way around any legislation compelling it to seek an extension to Brexit.

On Sunday Michael Gove, the cabinet minister charged with preparing for a no-deal split, repeatedly refused to say if the government would obey such a law.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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