Since the public voted to leave the EU three years ago, there have been plenty of dramatic weeks in parliament.
But after Boris Johnson revealed shock plans last week to suspend (or ‘prorogue’) parliament, MPs’ return to Westminster on Tuesday after the summer recess is expected to mark the start of the mother of all showdowns.
While the prime minister has insisted he’s suspending parliament from early September in order to set out an “exciting” new domestic agenda in a Queen’s speech, opposition MPs have accused him of trying to kill off attempts to block a no-deal Brexit – and they’re ready to act.
You may you only just be back from your summer holidays, but we are heading straight into what is likely to be a very fiery week in UK politics. Here’s what to expect.
BoJo’s G7 Catch Up
After causing so much drama last week – including major protests against the shutting down of parliament in London, Leeds and Oxford over the weekend – Boris Johnson is expected to kick off proceedings in parliament on Tuesday with a statement about last month’s G7 summit in France, where he met with other world leaders to discuss – among other things – the UK’s departure from the EU.
Michael Gove’s Brexit Update
But it’s not just Johnson who is expected to take centre stage during MPs’ dramatic first day back in Westminster.
Michael Gove – the PM’s right-hand man when it comes to no-deal Brexit prep – is also set to address MPs in the Commons, updating them on the plans in place in case the UK crashes out of the EU without a deal on October 31. (There are also rumours he could set out the mass public information campaign for a no-deal Brexit.)
The reaction to Gove’s speech is likely to be intense – his claims on Sunday that the fresh food supplies would not be affected by a no-deal Brexit were immediately slammed as “categorically untrue” by the trade body for UK retailers.
But whatever the response he gets, this is likely to be a regular speaking slot for the chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Gove’s official title), who is now expected to give a weekly update on no-deal planning as the UK steams ever closer to the Halloween Brexit date.
Brexit Showdown Legislation: Step One
But it’s when Gove’s update is over that things could really heat up, with opposition MPs – and Tories opposed to a no-deal Brexit – taking control.
While it’s not yet set in stone what these politicians will try and do to upset Johnson’s plans, it’s thought that they will try and grab control of the parliamentary timetable with something called a Standing Order 24 debate.
Usually, an SO24 debate is about as interesting as it sounds. But this time, MPs could use it to introduce legislation to block a no-deal Brexit. If they manage this, Tuesday would see the first reading of the bill designed to do this – its introduction to the Commons.
But getting this legislation passed would be far from easy – with parliament due to be suspended as early as September 9, it would be an *extremely* tight turn around. Not only would it have to go through the Commons and the Lords, and receive royal assent by that date, but there are a number of other hurdles opposition MPs would have to overcome before it became law – including whether the government would pay any attention to it.
Sajid Javid’s Spending Review
Amid all this madness, Sajid Javid is expected to give his first spending review as chancellor – a speech in the Commons which will reveal Johnson’s fiscal plans. Usually, this would be a *big deal* – Javid is expected to confirm large increases in public spending, with money for schools, hospitals and police forces. But with a parliamentary shutdown on the cards and a rebellion from MPs, it’s yet to be seen whether the review will receive much attention at all.
If MPs do indeed seize control of the Commons timetable, both Javid’s announcement and even prime minister’s question time could get shunted back or even cancelled.
Brexit Showdown Legislation: Step Two
If MPs are successful in their attempt to introduce legislation blocking a no-deal Brexit, Wednesday could see the bill debated in the Commons. However, it would have to go through a series of votes – and get backing from more than half of all MPs in order to get through to the next stage. Some MPs hope it can pass through all its stages by the end of Wednesday night.
No-Deal Brexit Legislation: Step Three
If MPs somehow get their anti-no-deal Brexit legislation through the Commons, it could hit the House of Lords by Thursday. However, here’s where it could get really tricky. While the majority of peers are opposed to a no-deal Brexit, those who back Johnson’s plans to leave the EU “do or die” on October 31 could talk out, or ‘filibuster’, the bill – meaning they could debate it until time runs out and the legislation fails.
Labour and other parties believe they can find a way to outflank the filibusterers, either by forcing the Lords to sit all day and all night through the weekend, or by even radically changing the Upper House’s rules to impose a cut-off time (known as a ‘guillotine’) on the debate.
So, will MPs manage to upset Johnson’s plans for leaving the EU? That’s yet to be seen. But one thing is sure – it’s going to be a bumpy old week in parliament. Buckle up, folks.