The members of the UK’s House of Commons have passed a bill that should prevent Boris Johnson, who is the most likely successor to Theresa May, to force through a no-deal Brexit.
The vote resulted in a majority of 42 (315 to 273) that seeks to block the suspension of the parliament between October 9 and December 19, unless a Northern Ireland Executive is formed. This majority included 17 Conservative MPs, including four cabinet ministers.
The four cabinet ministers who abstained are International Development Secretary Rory Stewart, Business Secretary Greg Clark and Justice Secretary David Gauke, and Chancellor Philip Hammond.
The party line was to give the prime minister a free hand over dissolving the parliament just before the UK leaves the EU on October 31, when Boris Johnson has vowed to lead the country out of the EU “with or without a deal.”
Last week, the former Conservative prime minister John Major had warned that he was prepared to challenge the legality of suspending parliament in court.
The emergence of a now likely Boris Johnson cabinet has given rise to a new rebel alliance in parliament that would make both shutting down parliament and actually governing difficult. Among their ranks, they do not count only 17 MPs but also a number of members with government experience.
The UK’s Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) warned on Thursday that in the case of a no-deal Brexit, the UK would need to borrow £60bn, as opposed to £29.3bn required with a deal. That is based on the assumption that the country would step into a steep recession.
Debt could surge by 12% by 2024, the OBR projects, while the debt-to-GDP ratio could climb further if aspirant successors to Theresa May hold on to a series of uncosted promises for tax cuts and spending increases.
The OBR was created in 2010 to give an independent analysis of the UK’s public finances: it projects a 2% contraction of the economy for 2020 in a no-deal scenario before the British economy recovers in 2021. The estimate assumes 4% tariffs on trade in goods – up from zero today – as well as the collapse of business confidence and investment.
In November, the Bank of England said that a no-deal outcome could send the pound plunging and trigger a worse recession than the 2008 financial crisis, projecting an 8% recession if there is no transition period. The Treasury projects a £90bn hit to the economy by 2035.
Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell has said that he expects no deal to “devastate the UK economy and the public finances.”