A rare event. Northern Ireland is at the heart of a Commons challenge today to prevent a No Deal Brexit

Dominic Grieve QC MP

Boris Johnson is expected to become  PM  just one day before the Commons rises for the summer recess, leaving only a few weeks  to challenge him  “not bluffing”  over quitting the EU at Hallowe’en, deal or no deal.  In perhaps the only available opportunity before the recess begins on 25 July, Northern Ireland is at the heart of moves by dissenting Conservatives to try to stop him today.  The opportunity created is  what would otherwise be ( to most MPs) the arcane subject of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill  creating new powers to postpone  an Assembly election  yet again. All attention is focused on Karen Bradley!

From The Times’chief political correspondent Kate Devlin ( from Ballymena!)

Today, some Remain-supporting MPs are expected to launch a new attempt to prevent a potential no-deal during a debate on Northern Irish power-sharing talks. The move, led by Dominic Grieve, the former attorney-general, could involve an amendment to legislation that would require a statement to be made to the Commons in October. This use of parliamentary procedure would in effect stop any government attempt to prorogue, or suspend, parliament as it would be legally required to be sitting. Mr Grieve told Pienaar’s Politics on BBC Radio 5 Live that a no-deal Brexit would be the “end of Northern Ireland’s union with the United Kingdom” and that the bill was a “perfectly legitimate place to start looking at how one might make sure no-deal Brexits are fully debated before they take place”.

Rory Stewart, another former leadership contender, last night suggested that Betty Boothroyd, the former Speaker, could chair an alternative parliament if Westminster was suspended. Mr Johnson has repeatedly refused to rule out proroguing parliament, saying only that he was not “attracted” to the idea. He said yesterday that he was not “remotely aiming for a no-deal outcome”, adding: “That’s not where I think we will end up.”

The current default position is that Britain will leave the EU without a deal at the end of October unless an agreement can be reached with Brussels or MPs can find a way to block it.

One option is for the Commons to pass a vote of no confidence in the government and trigger a general election. Mr Grieve said that he would vote against the government in such a scenario, “even though it is something I would do with great reluctance”.

Robert Peston’s version

Theresa May is expected to order her MPs to oppose the amendment by enforcing a so-called three-line whip. All Tory MPs have been ordered to cancel engagements and be in parliament on Monday and Tuesday.

But one MP told me the three-line whip ought “to have no impact on Rudd, Hammond, Gauke and the others” because “everyone knows Boris will sack them in a fortnight so they will have nothing to lose any longer”.

Also, Johnson’s rival to be Tory leader and PM, Jeremy Hunt, is on record as opposing a prorogation of parliament to force through a no-deal Brexit, so the foreign secretary too should back the amendment.

A source close to Hunt told me he had not made up his mind what to do.

I understand this will be the last attempt by Tory MPs before the summer recess in late July to make a no-deal Brexit a more remote prospect, although if they lose this week they will try to restart their offensive in September.

There are also like to be other hotly debated amendments to the Northern Ireland bill, to force the province to legalise abortion and recognise gay marriage.

These amendments will split the Tory Party because they are opposed by Northern Ireland’s DUP – whose 10 MPs prop up the government.

One senior Tory said her female colleagues were likely to support the legalisation of abortion and gay marriage whereas many men world abstain.

“The men are pathetic” said the source.

 

 

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