LONDON (Reuters) - The government’s battle to deliver Brexit will enter its endgame this week when opposition lawmakers seek to either change the law, or the government, in their drive to block what they say would be an economically damaging no-deal exit.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has threatened to expel any lawmaker from his party who votes against the government on Brexit.
- A Scottish court will hear arguments in a case questioning the legality of Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament between mid-September and mid-October.
- Parliament returns at around 1330 GMT after its summer break.
- Several government statements are expected in parliament, but they are not certain to happen.
- Instead, lawmakers opposed to a no-deal Brexit are expected to apply for an emergency debate.
- If granted by speaker John Bercow, this debate could be held the same day, or on Wednesday.
- The emergency debate, sometimes called a Standing Order 24 or SO24 debate, is the first step in parliamentarians’ plan to try to stop a no-deal exit.
- Lawmakers will need the Speaker, who has previously been supportive of their attempts to block no deal, to allow the terms of emergency debate to be amended.
- This would be a break from convention, but could allow lawmakers to take control of the agenda in the lower chamber of parliament.
- Any such amendment would be subject to a vote, which the government has said is a de-facto confidence vote.
- However, it would not be treated as a formal confidence votes under British law, and so would not automatically trigger the government’s collapse.
- The government is planning to deliver a spending review in parliament.
- But, if lawmakers have succeeded in taking control of the agenda they may choose to use Wednesday to enact the second stage of their plan: passing a law that seeks to prevent a no-deal Brexit on Oct. 31.
- It is possible to pass a bill through all the required stages in the House of Commons in a single day. It will probably require several votes, and is likely to be subject to wrecking attempts by the government.
- Lawmakers have yet to publish the wording of the bill they wish to pass through parliament, so it is unclear how ministers might try to block it, or what the law will actually require the government to do.
- The most likely option is some form of wording that requires Johnson to seek an extension to the current Brexit deadline from the European Union.
- If previous stages of the plan have been successful, and the bill has cleared the House of Commons, it will be passed to the House of Lords - a largely pro-EU, unelected chamber whose official role is to scrutinize and refine legislation.
- The bill would have to be approved by the lords before it can become law.
- The bill could be subject to filibustering - an attempt to talk for so long that the bill runs out of time to be passed. The time restrictions on debates in the lords allow scope for this, but it is unclear whether the tactic would work.
- Separately, courts will hear a challenge from campaigner Gina Miller, who is seeking a judicial review of the legality of a move by Johnson to suspend parliament later this month.
- Parliament is not scheduled to be sitting.
- A Northern Irish court will hear a legal bid to stop Johnson from suspending parliament.
- The government is expected to make a statement relating to Northern Ireland, detailing progress toward forming a devolved executive in the province.
- This had previously been seen as a key juncture that would allow opponents of the government strategy to take control of business in the house. Its importance appears to have been diminished because plans are moving much more quickly.
- Parliament will begin the process of tying up its business ahead of a suspension. This comes after Johnson announced he wanted to suspend parliament for around a month to announce a new legislative agenda for his government.
- The exact end date of parliament’s current sitting has not been set, but it will be between Sept. 9 and Sept. 12.
- If the law to prevent a no deal has not passed through both chambers of parliament and been given the rubber stamp of Royal Assent from Queen Elizabeth, by the time parliament is suspended, the plan has failed. The law would not resume its passage through parliament in mid-October.
Reporting by William James; editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Ed Osmond