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Analysis

Corbyn must force Johnson to delay Brexit not just pass law

by Hugo Dixon | 04.09.2019

Jeremy Corbyn had a good day yesterday. But he mustn’t rest on his laurels. There is still extreme danger ahead.

1. It’s not enough to get a law forcing the prime minister to ask for extra time onto the statute books, as the Labour leader said last night. He needs to make sure an extension is actually in the bag. 

2. Even once the Bill going through the Commons today is law, Boris Johnson may break it. He now says he won’t break the law. But he can’t be trusted, as he also says he won’t ask for an extension under any circumstances.

3. Of course, if there’s no election, Johnson may still break the law and refuse to ask for an extension as required by October 19. But it will be easier then to kick him out of office with a vote of no confidence – and install an emergency prime minister who can then secure extra time. In such a scenario, there will probably be enough MPs to do that.

4. But if there’s an election, Johnson will find it easier to break the law with impunity. The issue is not just that he could delay the election from the October 15 date he is expected to promise. It is rather that the sitting prime minister advises the Queen when to recall Parliament. Johnson could delay that until early November – by which time we would have crashed out – even if he sticks to his October 15 election promise. 

5. Unless Parliament is sitting or Corbyn gets an overall majority – which nobody thinks is remotely likely – Johnson can squat in Downing Street breaking the law. That’s true even if he doesn’t himself get a majority. He could even go to the European Council in mid-October having lost the election.

6. What’s more, if there’s an election and Johnson wins it, he could change the law. It’s hard to see him doing this before October 19. But he could do so before October 31, retroactively validating the fact that he had broken it.

7. Telling Johnson that he can’t get an election until an extension is in the bag doesn’t suffer any of these dangers. It would also rub Johnson’s nose in a mess of his own making. He would have to go back on his word never to ask the EU for extra time. He would then find it much harder to win an election as Nigel Farage would have his guts for garters.

8. An added benefit of telling Johnson that he has to secure an extension before asking for an election is that he could only hope to quit the EU by October 31 if he immediately asked for extra time rather than waiting until October 19. But he would still need MPs’ approval to call an early election – and since by next week Parliament would have been suspended, he would have to ask the Queen to recall it early. He would have to undo his undemocratic move to “prorogue” Parliament. Poetic justice indeed. 

Tags: , , Categories: Brexit

4 Responses to “Corbyn must force Johnson to delay Brexit not just pass law”

  • Just asked my adviser Sir Brexit da Brain-Fart about the situation and he warned me that Cummings and Johnson together are a toxic mix of dishonesty and potential criminality. So the writer of the above is right: make Johnson, naughty schoolboy that he is, do as he’s told and let him put everything on paper to the extent that it’s law before making any further move. Good article!

  • I would like to see Johnson have to fight an election with their manifesto declaring themselves as being the party of ‘No Deal’. I can understand why he wouldn’t want to, but since that really is the position of the extremists in his party that he has tied himself to, it would be the honest approach. To keep pretending he wants a deal, when he really doesn’t I don’t think is fooling anyone anymore.

  • Completly agree that MPs must not vote for an election unless the legislation to prevent a No Deal has gained Royal assent, and has been delivered in Brussels.

    I hope that talk of Johnson not implementing laws passed by Parliament, is just hyperbole. If it turns out to be true, that would send a shocking message out to the population in general. It would reinforce a view that if the PM or Government breaks the law, why shouldn’t anybody else.

  • Raab, being interviewed, claimed that he couldn’t reveal what new arrangements for the Irish border had been put to the EU in talks, as they might be leaked and criticised.
    Not for the first time, Government minsters are talking to the general public as if they are halfwits.