Boris Johnson has vowed to ensure the UK exits the European Union by the extended deadline of October 31 “come what may” – meaning with or without a deal on the table. This weekend emails came to light which showed the Prime Minister had sought legal advice from attorney general Geoffrey Cox on whether or not he could prorogue Parliament for five weeks from September 9 to prevent a further extension to Brexit. Despite many politicians, businesses and individuals around the country are strongly opposed to a no deal Brexit from the EU, citing the huge cost implications that could hit the UK as a key justification for agreeing a deal before leaving, but Mr Johnson has remained adamant he will not move or change the current deadline date. Express.co.uk speaks to a Brexit expert about the one thing standing in Boris Johnson’s way.
Ever since the Tory leadership race, speculation about Boris Johnson plan for Brexit – specifically his rigidity with the Brexit deadline date – has raised suspicions about whether he is prepared to force through a controversial no deal Brexit by suspending Parliament.
Prorogation formally ends a parliamentary session and is marked with a ceremony in the House of Lords.
Once the Commons has been prorogued all motions that have not been answered, or bills which have not obtained Royal Assent, will not progress any further.
Any bill can be reintroduced in the next session by an MP or continue in the next session if a carry-over motion has been passed.
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This could effectively exclude MPs from the decision to intervene in the Brexit process and prevent a no deal exit.
Given Theresa May thrice tried to push her deal through Parliament, only to have it rejected each time, it seems likely MPs would be proactive about honouring the democratic process and offering their opinions about a no deal exit.
David Hearne, a researcher at the Centre for Brexit Studies at Birmingham City University says the MPs could be the only way to stop Mr Johnson orchestrating a no deal exit – but warned they have very little hope of doing so.
He said: “MPs could ultimately prevent Mr Johnson from forcing a no-deal Brexit.
“However, the window to do this is quite narrow and there are relatively few parliamentary devices available to do so.”
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House of Commons Speaker John Bercow this month pledged to prevent the Prime Minister proroguing Parliament saying he would “fight with every bone in my body”.
On the subject of Mr Bercow, Mr Hearne said he would be unable to intercede on the wishes on the PM.
He added: “The only person who can prorogue parliament is Her Majesty.
“Typically prorogation is done on the advice of the Prime Minister (in essence she does what he says).
“However, there are now substantial impediments to prorogation prior to October 31st, primarily relating to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc.) Bill.
“To a large extent, it appears that prorogation is off the menu for now, although at the moment Parliament is scheduled to not sit for several weeks in September/October due to party conferences.
“I suspect that there will be moves to change this to allow Parliament more sitting time.”
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Another bid to prevent a no deal exit was made recently by Philip Hammond who penned a letter to Mr Johnson, signed by 20 Conservative party MPs, asking him to reconsider his hardline stance on the Irish backstop.
When asked whether this is likely to be effective, Mr Hearne said: “I don’t think it contained anything that we didn’t already know.
“The EU have been quite categorical since before March that the Withdrawal Agreement will not be reopened and they have remained steadfast since then (including in late March and early April when a ‘no-deal’ Brexit was just a few days away).
“Hammond’s judgement that they will not accede to the changes asked for is probably sound.
“The broader point – that he opposes a ‘no deal’ Brexit and will act to try and stop it from happening – is well known.
“It is worth pointing out that as an MP, he is within his rights to do what he believes best for the country (as are his opponents).”
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But why exactly is Boris Johnson so adamant that he will not change his mind?
David Hearne says that while the Irish backstop is not important to Mr Johnson personally, it was the single largest issue that continually led to the rejection of the withdrawal deal in the House of Commons.
When asked why Mr Johnson is determined not to extend the deadline, Mr Hearne said: “I think Mr Johnson’s actions need to be seen through two key lenses.
“Firstly, many of his key supporters within the parliamentary Conservative Party come from the right-wing ‘Pro-Brexit’ wing of the Party and I think he feels a need to maintain their support.
“Many within this group are vociferous opponents of extending Article 50 again.
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“More importantly, he is clearly gearing up to fight an election and believes that Brexit will be the most important (but not the only) issue during it.
“Polling data supports this assumption.
“By taking an extreme position he clearly hopes to neuter the Brexit Party.
“Leaving on October 31 and holding an election very soon afterwards would be an extremely effective way of doing this – after all, why vote for the Brexit Party if Brexit has already happened?
“This strategy is inherently risky as polling data suggests that the majority of the country are opposed to leaving with ‘no deal’.
“However, Johnson will be hoping that the opposition vote will split between the Labour Party and others (as happened for Mrs Thatcher in 1983). At the moment, this appears likely.”