Opposition parties — the Liberal Democrats, Labour, the Scottish National Party, and others — are in favour of using one of two legal methods to block a no-deal Brexit, sources who are involved in the discussion have told Yahoo Finance UK.
Following UK prime minister Boris Johnson’s proposals to suspend parliament between 11 September to 14 October and to return with a Queen’s Speech outlining the government’s plans, sources said there was an “escalation in the urgency of our actions.”
The two options favoured by opponents are a Standing Order 24 (SO24) motion (emergency debate), and a set of similar tactics that was used for the European Union Withdrawal Act 2019 (also known as the Cooper/Letwin bill).
A ‘nuclear option’ of a vote of no confidence has not been considered by opposition parties, sources say.
The SO24 is a rule that allows a Member of Parliament to apply to the Speaker of the House for an emergency debate between Mondays and Thursdays.
Dom Walsh, a policy analyst from think tank Open Europe, told Yahoo Finance UK that an SO24 motion would be reliant on a favourable speaker.
“Motions under SO24 are normally in neutral terms, meaning they simply state that the House has ‘considered’ an issue,” said Walsh.
“The speaker could interpret the rules to allow a vote on a motion which was not in neutral terms to set aside a day for MPs to take control of the Commons order paper again.
“However, that would still require MPs to agree on the content of the bill and then pass it through both the Commons and the Lords, which may not be straightforward.”
House of Commons speaker John Bercow issued a statement attacking Johnson’s support for suspending parliament, which suggests he may side with opposition MPs.
Full Bercow statement— Beth Rigby (@BethRigby) August 28, 2019
- constitutional outrage
- trying to stop parliament debating Brexit
- shutting down parliament an offence against the democratic process
- he’s on holiday (I was too, but I’m not anymore) pic.twitter.com/nPF0GdIXv0
The Institute for Government outlined to Yahoo Finance UK one potential timetable for an SO24 motion being used to block no-deal.
It’s a tight squeeze. A debate would have to be requested by 3 September, a bill would need to be introduced and debated from 5 September — and would still be required to pass the Commons and Lords by 11 September.
A Cooper/Letwin Bill Mark 2?
An attempt to replicate parts of the EU Withdrawal Bill — AKA the Cooper/Letwin Bill — would mean MPs going through the voting process again on what a deal would look like. It is understood that MPs are in talks to do this, but SO24 is the preferred path.
If the Queen’s Speech is defeated in the House of Commons on 14 October, a Downing Street source told Yahoo Finance UK that the government would likely force the opposition into a vote of no confidence and not concede to one.
In a statement responding to the government’s plans to suspend parliament, Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “I am appalled at the recklessness of Johnson’s government, which talks about sovereignty and yet is seeking to suspend parliament to avoid scrutiny of its plans for a reckless no-deal Brexit.
“This is an outrage and a threat to our democracy.”
“That is why Labour has been working across Parliament to hold this reckless government to account, and prevent a disastrous no-deal which parliament has already ruled out.
“If Johnson has confidence in his plans he should put them to the people in a general election or public vote.”