Brexit Brief: Best-Laid Plans

Posted on 11th July 2019

Johnson to Beat Hunt

Some 160 000 Conservative party members received their ballots this week and have until 21 July to choose between former foreign secretary Boris Johnson and current Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Since their selection by Conservative MPs on 20 June, Johnson has kept a firm lead over his rival. When he wins, he will attempt to broker a new deal with the European Union, come to the realisation that it’s easier said than done and be faced with the same barriers as his predecessor: finding a deal acceptable to 27 other countries, three Conservative factions and the DUP, with just a four-seat majority in parliament, that could soon be just three.

Prorogation Peregrinations

Surprisingly, ancient royal powers are dominating the contest. MPs are doing their best to prevent the UK leaving without a deal – even seizing control of parliament to pass a law against the wishes of the government in April. But it’s the stated position of candidate Johnson that he will not rule out trying to prorogue (suspend) parliament for a few weeks in October to stop such parliamentary pre-emption. On Tuesday, MPs passed an amendment requiring ministers to regularly report on the situation in Northern Ireland, effectively trying to make it more difficult for Johnson to shut parliament out. Meanwhile, former Conservative prime minister is threatening to take him to court if he tries.  The government has long effectively controlled when parliament sits through exercising ancient royal prerogatives and MPs are threatening a constitutional crisis to make sure they have their say before 31 October.

Labour Back in Remain

The delicate compromise between the Leave and Remain wings of the Labour party shifted significantly this week, with Labour committing to campaign for Remain against a no-deal or “Tory” Brexit. Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn challenged the next prime minister to hold a referendum before the UK leaves the EU. Still, in the interest of appeasing the Leave-backing wing of the party, Corbyn promised to renegotiate the Brexit deal in the event of a general election – although still subject to a referendum. In another attempt to please everyone and make up for its performance in the European elections and recent polling, Labour has left pleasing nobody.

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