Boris Johnson’s government is preparing to resist the parliaments’ last attempt to stop a no-deal Brexit. The two prevailing scenarios are that MPs will attempt to push the government to ask for an extension to Article 50 or will submit a no-confidence motion.
Johnson reiterated to the Sunday Times that current negotiations would either bring “a great deal” or the UK will get out of the EU by October 31, “come what may.”
MPs are expected to move on Tuesday under the so-called Standing Order 24 rule that allows MPs to ask for a debate. The objective would be to have the bill debated and voted upon by Wednesday in order to reach the House of Lords by Thursday.
That is a tall order as filibustering opportunities are ample for Brexit-leaning MPs, especially in the House of Lords. Furthermore, according to former Conservative Justice Secretary David Gauke, Conservative MPs willing to vote against the prevailing government position are threatened with expulsion and deselection.
That is a threat that mathematically could lead to elections in the UK, as the Conservatives theoretically hold a majority in parliament of just one MP. Still, the window of opportunity for MPs to stop a no-deal Brexit is narrowing.
Even if legislation was successful, the EU would need the government of the day to request a delay of Article 50. Asked by the BBC on Sunday morning, cabinet minister Michael Gove would not deny that the government is willing to disobey new legislation.
In a similar vein, the leader of the Conservative Party in the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, made clear on Friday that it was the government’s prerogative to interpret new legislation. That means that the government could interpret new legislation in a manner that derails the possibility of averting Brexit.
The former Conservative UK Attorney General Dominic Grieve told the Irish public broadcaster (RTE) on Sunday that if legislation aimed at stopping a no-deal Brexit is ignored by the Johnson government, the consequences would be serious.
“I’m fairly confident if the House of Commons moves to extend Article 50, then the government is simply going to have to comply because they can’t act unlawfully,” Grieve said.
Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, the European Commission’s Chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, expressed his pessimism over the prospect of a deal. “I am not optimistic about avoiding a no-deal scenario, but we should all continue to work with determination,” Barnier said.
Barnier linked his pessimism with the Irish backstop which the British government wants removed from any future agreement between the EU and the UK.
Meanwhile, protestors took to the streets of London, Oxford, Exeter, Manchester, York, Newcastle, Belfast, Glasgow and Edinburgh to protest the parliament’s prorogation on Sunday. Using the slogan #StopTheCoup, organizers of the London march claimed as many as 100,000 participants.