Brexit: MPs considering bid to ‘cancel autumn recess’ to stop Halloween no-deal

Extra parliamentary time would allow for more constitutional battles in the Commons

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Thursday 08 August 2019 10:03
Dominic Cummings says he 'doesn't know very much about very much'

MPs are considering a bid to cancel the annual autumn recess set aside for party conferences in a fresh attempt to prevent Boris Johnson ploughing ahead with a no-deal Brexit on 31 October.

It comes as talks between London and Brussels remain deadlocked, and Mr Johnson’s administration remains steadfast in its commitment to leaving the EU in 84 days’ time at all costs.

Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s senior adviser, has also told colleagues the PM could refuse to resign if he lost a motion of no confidence, and call a general election after the Halloween deadline.

Speaking in public for the first time on Wednesday, Mr Cummings, a former chief of the Vote Leave referendum campaign, said: “Politicians don’t get to chose which votes they respect”.

But, according to The Guardian, MPs are attempting to set aside more parliamentary time to stop the government pushing through the UK’s exit from the bloc without the consent of the Commons.

When the Commons returns after the summer break, three MPs told the newspaper they are considering amending a motion required for the chamber to break again in mid-September for the annual party conference season.

Typically, the Commons breaks up for three weeks in the autumn so that MPs can decamp the chamber and attend gatherings of party members across the country, with leaders setting out their policy agenda for the coming year.

The MPs’ aim is to eventually demand the government extends the Article 50 negotiating period – something ruled out by Mr Johnson.

It is unlikely that such a move by MPs would result in the cancellation of conferences in their entirety – given the Liberal Democrats and Labour use the three-day events to vote on crucial party policy.

It will also be Mr Johnson’s first chance to address the Conservative Party membership since succeeding Theresa May as prime minister last month, and set out his vision for the country.

But the events could be dramatically scaled back, with just those set to do keynote speeches attending the conference while MPs remain in Westminster.

Labour’s preferred option, however, is to force MPs to vote on a motion of no confidence in the new administration.

If Mr Johnson loses the vote, the Fixed Term Parliaments Act outlines the process for a 14-day period for MPs to pass a motion of confidence. Failing that, a general election would be called.

On Wednesday, shadow chancellor John McDonnell also raised concerns about the UK’s leadership, saying Labour would insist on Jeremy Corbyn becoming prime minister if Mr lost a vote of no confidence.

Speaking at an event at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Mr McDonnell said if the prime minister refused to step down should he lose a confidence vote, Labour would call on the Queen appoint Mr Corbyn instead.

He said: “I don’t want to drag the Queen into this but I would be sending Jeremy Corbyn in a cab to Buckingham Palace to say we’re taking over.”

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