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MPs may have found way to stop Boris doing something stupid

by Hugo Dixon | 11.06.2019

It may be impossible to stop Boris Johnson becoming prime minister. But a cross-party attempt to take control of parliamentary business may prevent him dragging us out of the EU with no deal.

People often wonder how MPs can stop a prime minister doing something really silly. They ignore the fact that Parliament, not the inhabitant of Downing Street, is sovereign.

It’s true that, in normal times, the prime minister controls what MPs debate. But these are not normal times. The Tories do not have a proper majority. And a massive 400 MPs, including lots of sensible Conservative, have voted against crashing out of Europe without a deal.

It still requires craft to wrest control of the agenda from the government. The device MPs have lighted upon is one of Parliament’s rare “opposition day” debates. Jeremy Corbyn will propose a motion, which has been backed by Labour and MPs from five other opposition parties including the Tories’ Oliver Letwin.

The MPs tomorrow hope to pass a motion giving them control of the “order paper” on June 25. In two weeks time, they can then do something more dramatic – probably pushing emergency legislation through the House of Commons.

The idea seems to be to pass a bill requiring the government to come to the House of Commons before crashing out. Such legislation would stop a new prime minister suspending – or “proroguing” – Parliament.

Two candidates for Tory leader – Dominic Raab and Esther McVey – have already suggested they might try such an undemocratic manoeuvre. This outraged sensible Tories including Amber Rudd, who declared “we are not Stuart Kings”, referring to Charles I’s attempt to dismiss Parliament.

Meanwhile, Johnson has said we must leave the EU on October 31, the new Brexit deadline, whether we have a deal or not.

The latest parliamentary manoeuvre will not stop Johnson crashing out of the EU. Merely requiring him to appear in front of MPs won’t be enough. Further devices may, in due course, be needed.

But hopefully, if he gets into Downing Street, he will see it’s not in his interests to be beaten by Parliament into one retreat after another, the fate suffered by Theresa May. Instead, he should realise there’s no majority for “no deal” – and if that’s what he really wants, he should take the bull by the horns and ask the people in a new referendum whether they agree.

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Edited by Max Waller

8 Responses to “MPs may have found way to stop Boris doing something stupid”

  • This is disgraceful.

    It is only possible because Labour, the Liberals and the SNP voted against the recommendations of the independent Boundary Commission in 2013.

    This passive form of Gerrymandering has changed subsequent Parliamentary arithmetic to the advantage of Remainers. They are exercising a majority that lacks any legitimacy.

  • Teejay,
    What lacks legitimacy is a pursuit of Hard Brexit, already rejected by Parliament, and without mandate through the EU Referendum or subsequent elections. I accept about 6 million people want it come what may, but in a country of 65 million people that is hardly a majority view.
    Feel free to convince us otherwise.

  • Peter,
    A No Deal is viewed by most observers as act of lunacy, and we are simply ill prepared for it as nation, as a leak from the cabinet has revealed today. Hard Brexit is preferred outcome for a group of very wealthy individuals (with overseas interests and backers) who want it at any cost, as they stand to make a fortune out of the ensuing turbulence in the markets. The Referendum did not give a mandate for a reckless act of that magnitude, as we were promised the ‘exact same benefits’ of EU membership without the costs and responsibilities. Unless someone has been asleep throughout the travails of the last three years, it is clear that this will not be the case. To pursue it regardless is not respecting the right of a democracy to change its mind, when it realizes its been had.
    Boris is urgent to deliver on Brexit is to preserve the Conservative Party. So 160,000 Conservative Party members are of more importance than the country? That’s less than 0.25% of the population. If so, they truly have become the party “For the Few, not the many”

  • One has to laugh about the apparent British interpretation of democracy when vilifying the EU for being undemocratic. The UK itself operates an infantile first past the post voting system and then threatened to put the democratically elected parliament out of action on brexit more than once. Which, democratically speaking, leaves about half the UK population to see their freedom of travel, study, security and economical well-being imperilled whilst having to undergo the antics of brexiteer factions in the hallowed name of “the British People”. This all based on lies and, worse, a complete lack of vision or plan about the future of the UK when going it alone. And then winding up trying to align itself with an at present even less democratically orientated USA, to try and secure itself some sort of an alternative trading market.

    The antics of a number of financial wide boys to exploit the (justified) anger of many less educated and financially rather less blessed, gravitate around getting rid of EU financial regulations in order to turn Britain into yet another piggy-bank for tax-evading and money laundering rich. As the present main contender for the job of Prime Minister so diplomatically put it: fxxk business. To which one could add fxxk British world-famous educational institutions, scientific prowess, industry and trade. All issues that secured jobs for many that are now being emasculated. Where the democracy in that?

  • Tony, we all have our own views as to the outcome of no deal – I happen to think you and your ilk are utterly wrong – but at the end of the day the 2016 referendum vote demands we leave the EU. If the swivel eyed EU zealots in parliament achieve reversing that result then we will be in a whole load of shit going forward! Do you really want what could be a Nigel Farage government in the not too distant future?

  • Peter,
    The flaws of the 2016 are well documented and a sensible parliament would have admitted as much. Its not my analysis of the likely negative outcome of Brexit or the EUs for the matter, but the Government’s own that suggests that our economy will be 9% weaker over time compared to our current standing. I don’t imagine you are an economist so your dismissal of these numbers is little more than wishful thinking. That most people are ignorant of the facts about Brexit is easily verifiable. Here is a challenge for you before we play this ping pong game further; Ask 10 people who voted Leave if they can tell you how much membership of the EU costs them personally ( not the false claim for the national contribution) and see how many get anywhere near the right answer. It can be checked on your/their annual tax breakdown. You will also find that its progressive, so the less someone earns the less they pay. Following on from that ask them if they know what the impact of a 9% hit to the economy would mean to their standard of living. In contrast this impact is not progressive, put simply if the cost of a loaf of bread increases as a result of a weakened economy it affects everybody. Compare the two costs and see if they still feel so relaxed as you clearly do about a No Deal outcome. These numbers can easily be found out as the facts are hidden in plain sight. And that is before the disruption to business supply chains, which like it or not, we all depend on.
    You might be well off enough to not troubled by the negative consequences of all this as at least we will be shot of all those nasty EU institutions. The trouble is No Deal doesn’t just affect you and your friends, it will affect us all whether we like it or not and will fall especially hard on those who are the worst off already.
    As much as I disagree with you I don’t have the impression that you don’t care about the situations of others. All I would suggest is that you take an honest look at the realities we are now staring at, and put together a coherent reasoned argument for why it will all be OK, and why all the expert opinion is wrong, not just you don’t like the EU, therefore we must leave it.

  • The Government estimates that a No Deal would reduce GDP by 9%. Besides the shrinking of the economy, it would have a major knock on effect to public services.
    It would also put UK nationals in Europe into a very uncertain situation. UK expat pensioners would effectively be abandoned, as the Withdrawal Agreement (though by no means perfect), would no longer be valid.
    It was therefore very dissapointing that so many Labour MPs voted with the Government or abstained, to assist any more ruthless potential PM riding roughshod over Parliament, which has a clear majority against a No Deal.
    It would be an absolute outrage if Parliament were to be denied the opportunity of voting on a final No Deal.