It’s been a busy few weeks in British politics. The Brexit drama has reared its head yet again, this time in ways difficult to comprehend. There have been a number of unprecedented events within British politics. With this in mind, let us return to the beginning of at least the recent drama to build up an idea of what has happened, is happening, and the perhaps resultant happenings of the latest chapter in the Brexit saga.
Flashback to July 23rd 2019. The Tory leadership race saw Boris Johnson elected as the leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom with a vote share of 66% over his rival Jeremy Hunt. Johnson campaigned on a promise to get the UK out of the European Union by the October 31st Brexit deadline deal or no deal. In early August a government document named operation Yellowhammer was made a matter of public record. The Yellowhammer document outlined the ‘base case‘ scenario for the possible outcomes of a no deal Brexit which included delays on medical and food imports to the UK of between one to two days. Operation Yellowhammer showed to the public one thing, that the British government were ramping up contingency plans for a no deal Brexit.
And then another strain to the political tensions surrounding Brexit. News broke in early September of government plans to prorogue Parliament. In a shocking turn of events Phillip Lee, MP for Bracknell, defected from the Conservative party to the Liberal Democrats on the third of September, stripping the incumbent government of its majority in the House of Commons. In response to the upheaval in the house opposition MPs tabled a motion to take commons business out of the hands of the government and into that of the opposition, which was subsequently passed. Opposition leaders then passed a bill forcing the UK government to negotiate a Brexit deal else the October 31st deadline be extended until January 22nd. The bill was passed by the commons on the 5th of September with 327 ayes and 299 noes. The passing of the bill which saw 21 conservative MPs expelled from their party (including 2 former Chancellors) was a huge defeat for Johnson’s government. After the vote, Johnson announced he was to table a motion for the next morning calling an early general election. Another defeat saw no early general election, with Labour abstaining from the vote calling for assurances of a deal when the UK eventually leaves the European Union. Outside of the Westminster bubble a legal challenge against the proroguing of Parliament brought forward by Gina Miller was thrown out by the high court in London on the 6th September.
On the ninth of September another vote on an early general election failed by 293 ayes to 46 noes with 307 abstaining. During his speech to prorogue Parliament John Bercow committed to resign as Speaker of the House of Commons come the 31st of October. The beginning of the prorogation process saw unprecedented protests by a number of MPs within The House of Commons. This included Clive Lewis, MP for Norwich South waving a piece of paper with the word “SILENCED” written on it.
Prorogation is currently in effect, however, in lieu of a legal challenge from MPs a Scottish court ruled that the process of prorogation was illegal. This means both Miller’s case and that of the MPs will face a decision from the supreme court in the near future to determine the validity of proroguing Parliament.
So where do we go now? If prorogation is ruled as illegal it could lead to a vote of no confidence in the government or in the most extreme circumstances, criminal charges being brought to members of Johnson’s government. An early general election is perhaps a likely outcome of this process and with the conservative government being a minority government, key legislation relating to the Brexit issue will be much harder to pass into law. Opposition parties have also expressed a need for a general election with Labour stating that it “will support general election as soon as the bill to stop No Deal becomes law”, and the Lib Dems committing to backing an early general election. Either way this summer has been a whirlwind of political upheaval that is yet to settle for the foreseeable future.