Never mind Labour defeat, MPs can still stop no-deal chaos

by Luke Lythgoe | 13.06.2019

The defeat of Labour’s motion – to seize control of the parliamentary calendar and ultimately legislate against a chaotic no-deal Brexit – should not make pro-Europeans lose heart. The overwhelming majority of MPs are firmly against crashing out with no deal. They will have other chances to stop Boris Johnson, most likely the next prime minister now that he’s easily topped the first round of the Tory leadership race, doing something mad.

There were particular reasons why Labour’s initiative yesterday failed by 298 votes to 309. So long as Tory MPs are still electing their new leader, the need to block no deal is not so pressing.

What’s more, this motion was tabled not by Conservative or cross-party backbenchers, as with previous parliamentary rebellions on Brexit, but by Jeremy Corbyn. Even Oliver Letwin, who signed the motion, said backing the Labour leader was “very uncomfortable”. No wonder many Tories opposed to a no-deal Brexit didn’t feel the need to rebel just yet.

Nevertheless, they look poised to do so in future. Eleven Tories abstained, among them several who have rebelled over the no-deal issue before, such as Richard Harrington and Ed Vaizey. Among those Tories who did vote with the government was leadership hopeful Rory Stewart, who was forced into a climbdown after suggesting he would vote for Labour’s attempt to block no deal. Just hours before, chancellor Philip Hammond repeated that no deal is not an option because Parliament will block it.

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The 13 Labour MPs who abstained are also likely to get behind an effort to stop no deal if it comes to it. Gareth Snell, for example, who favours leaving with a deal, said he had personally “ruled [no deal] out and taken it off the table”, warning of the impact of his “manufacturing constituents” in Stoke-on-Trent.

The issue is not then whether Parliament will block no deal, rather how and when. Yes, time will be limited between now and Halloween thanks to

the summer recess and party conference season. But there are other ways to stop a new prime minister driving us off a cliff, as Nick Kent has written for InFacts.

Ultimately, there’s the nuclear option of a vote of no confidence in the government. This would be messier than yesterday’s procedural efforts. Would Conservatives be willing to take down their government? Dominic Grieve insisted he would “not hesitate”. Surely enough of his colleagues would follow suit rather than have the ravaging of their country on their consciences.

Rather than seeing yesterday as a “victory” for hard Brexiters, as the Express front page declared this morning, pro-Europeans should take heart that MPs are already forming unlikely alliances and manoeuvring to stop a no-deal Brexit being unleashed on their constituents. After all, Parliament is sovereign – not Johnson.

Edited by Hugo Dixon

Tags: , , Categories: UK Politics

One Response to “Never mind Labour defeat, MPs can still stop no-deal chaos”

  • While I hope you are right in saying that further opportunities will come ( although Oliver Letwin did not hold out much hope this morning) every parliamentary failure of this sort must weaken the campaign to ward off “no deal”.

    Why on earth did they go ahead with an obviously premature strike with Jeremy Corbyn’s signature at its head? Even if the Labour Party thought this was a good idea could the Lib Dems not see what an error it was?