No-deal? Intense Brexit debate expected in UK Parliament

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has taken steps to suspend Parliament

Summer recess is over, and Britain’s Parliament reconvenes Tuesday to face a momentous decision about whether to intervene to try to prevent a possible “no-deal” exit from the European Union.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has taken steps to suspend Parliament during part of the period before the Oct. 31 Brexit deadline, giving legislators little time to try to rush through legislation designed to prevent a disorderly departure. They face a formidable challenge.

ALSO READ: Leaked UK memos warn of food, drug shortages in Brexit chaos

Parliament debate

Labour Party officials are expected to seek an “emergency debate” so that an extension to the Brexit deadline can be discussed in the House of Commons. The plan is to introduce binding legislation that, if passed, would force the prime minister to seek an extension to the Oct. 31 deadline even though he has said he is determined to leave the EU on that date regardless of whether there is a deal with the bloc’s nations.

The role of House of Commons Speaker John Bercow will be important in determining when and how any debate unfolds. The speaker plays an impartial role in the British system, although Bercow last week criticized Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament for longer than usual before the Brexit deadline as a “constitutional outrage.” He has been an outspoken advocate for Parliament playing an active role in setting Brexit policy.

Making laws

This is not usually a fast process. A bill introduced in the House of Commons, the lower chamber of Parliament, gets two “readings” — one with a debate — before it goes to a committee stage, during which every clause is discussed and amendments can be made.

It then goes back to the House of Commons for more debate and possibly more amendments, which can be made by any legislator, and then is voted on at the end of a “third reading.”

If the bill is supported, it goes to the upper House of Lords for a similar series of phases, with differing rules about when amendments can be offered. Parliament’s website makes clear that this process can be very slow, and is subject to filibuster tactics: “All suggested amendments have to be considered, if a member wishes, and members can discuss an issue for as long as they want.”

If the Lords have made amendments to the bill, it is then sent back to the Commons for further consideration. If the Lords haven’t made changes, the bill is sent to Queen Elizabeth II for “royal assent” and becomes law. The queen’s approval is seen as a formality and doesn’t have to be given in person.

The Prime Minister’s opinion

Johnson’s backers in Parliament can slow the legislative process down with amendments and with filibustering speeches that can go on for hours, in effect “playing out the clock” during the period before Parliament is suspended, which can begin as early as Sept. 9.

Parliament is set to reconvene shortly before the Brexit deadline, but those opposed to a “no-deal” departure say any legislation should be passed this week. Parliament normally doesn’t sit on Fridays or on weekends, but that could be changed given the current time pressure.

On another front, Johnson is threatening to expel fellow Conservative Party legislators who back efforts to extend the Brexit deadline.

The prime minister also has stopped short of formally committing the government to abiding by Parliament’s wishes if legislation is passed. Cabinet minister Michael Gove, who is playing a key role in Brexit preparations, said the government would wait and see what, if any, legislation is passed before deciding its response.

As things stand, Britain will leave the EU on Oct. 31 unless it seeks an extension and the other 27 EU nations approve. If Parliament instructs the government to request an extension but is ignored, it would set off a constitutional clash of major proportions.

Gregory Katz, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Black History Month: Documentary sheds light on black pioneers’ role in Victoria

Secret Victoria: Rush to Freedom looks at how a mass migration shaped the capital

Hundreds of wax figures find new life in Saanich man’s home

Former director of Victoria’s Royal London Wax Museum still hopes to revive wax figure tourism

Oak Bay wins Vancouver Island basketball championship

Third-place NDSS will get to challenge second place Claremont for a berth in provincials

Peninsula Eagles will host Midget T2 provincial championships

Provincial championships will take place at Panorama Recreation March 15 to 19

HIGHLIGHTS: Day one and two at the 2020 BC Winter Games

Athletes had sunny – but cold – weather to work with in Fort St. John

Tyler Toffoli scores twice, Canucks crush Bruins 9-3

Stecher, Miller each add three points for Vancouver

Zamboni driver, 42, earns NHL win over Maple Leafs

Emergency goalie called into action for Carolina Hurricanes

Governor general says multiple solutions needed for ‘complicated’ overdose issue

Julie Payette met at a fire hall with firefighters and police officers as well as politicians and health experts

Landlord ordered to pay $11K after harassing B.C. mom to move days after giving birth

Germaine Valdez was pressured to move just a few days after giving birth by C-section to her child

Heart attacks strike B.C. husband and wife just over one year apart

Courtenay couple share personal stories to bring awareness to heart month

‘Nothing surprises us anymore:’ U.S. border officials find brain in package

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents found the brain packed in a glass mason jar in a Canada Post shipment

B.C., Ottawa sign sweeping 30-year deal for northern caribou habitat

West Moberly, Saulteau co-manage new protection on two million acres

Loans or gifts? Judge rules woman must pay Victoria man back $7K

B.C. judge rules that woman must pay back more than $7,000 in advanced funds to man

Most Read