Brexit Brief: What to Expect When You’re Expecting Brexit

After losing control of parliamentary proceedings, Boris Johnson suffered a heavy defeat when 21 Conservative MPs voted with the opposition to prevent a no-deal Brexit. Now, the prime minister faces two uphill battles: negotiations with the EU and a potential general election.

MPs take back control (again)

Yesterday, MPs introduced legislation to prevent a no-deal Brexit, having seized control of parliamentary proceedings from the government. The bill, led by (ex-)Conservative MP Alistair Burt and Labour MP Hilary Benn, would place a legal duty on Boris Johnson to seek an extension to Article 50 by 19 October, unless MPs agree to a no-deal Brexit. The legislation could finish its passage in the House of Lords by Friday, making it ready to be signed into law on Monday.

Bad days for Boris

Boris Johnson’s run of parliamentary defeats continued after his motion for a general election failed to gain the support of two-thirds of MPs. With the government now well short of a majority, a general election is still a near certainty, however the date it will take place is unclear. Jeremy Corbyn has promised that Labour will support calls for an election as soon as a no-deal Brexit is legally blocked and other opposition parties are likely to row in behind. Johnson’s decision to remove the whip from 21 Conservative MPs who voted to hand over control of parliament to rebel MPs has provoked fierce criticism as many long-standing MPs now find themselves ineligible to stand for the Conservatives in the next election and in many cases kicked out of the party altogether.

Negotiations and no-deal preparations

The prime minister claims that he will continue to negotiate the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement and remove the Northern Irish backstop. While Johnson is facing an uphill battle, the EU is open to negotiations and waiting for the UK to propose a realistic alternative to the backstop – if one can be found. In the meantime, the Commission has advanced preparations to address the expected economic impact of no-deal Brexit. The UK government announced plans to extend the free movement of EU citizens after acknowledging it would not be able to introduce a new immigration system immediately following Brexit, whenever that may be.

The next few months will be a crucial test on whether parliament or Boris Johnson will set Brexit policy.

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