No-deal? Intense Brexit debate expected in UK Parliament

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has taken steps to suspend Parliament

No-deal? Intense Brexit debate expected in UK 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

The Okanagan’s first virtual wedding fair will be held Saturday, March 27. {Paul Rodgers photo)
Okanagan to host virtual wedding fair

Okanagan wine country is No. 1 destination for weddings - online event set for March 27

Vernon Search and Rescue, with help from the Air Rescue One helicopter out of Wildcat Helicopters in Kelowna, and Central Okanagan Search and Rescue, were able to transport an injured snowmobiler to Vernon Regional Airport, where he was loaded into an ambulance and taken to Vernon Jubilee Hospital with a serious, painful back injury. (Facebook photo)
Okanagan helicopter rescue teams called to retrieve injured sledder at Greystokes

Vernon and Central Okanagan Search and Rescue help load injured man into waiting helicopter

Chase RCMP held two men involved in drunken disturbances overnight in their detachment’s cells on Feb. 6. (File Photo)
Chase RCMP hold two men involved in drunken disturbances overnight

The two separate incidents took place less than an hour apart.

The District of Sicamous is trying to take over management of the Sicamous and District Recreation Centre . (File Photo)
District of Sicamous seeks management contract for hockey arena

The arena has been managed by a non-profit society since it was built in the early 1980s.

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. The federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, start with the vaccination of police officers in internal police vaccination centers. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
B.C. officials to unveil new details of COVID vaccination plan Monday

Seniors and health-care workers who haven’t gotten their shot are next on the list

(Contributed)
Kelowna flight potentially exposed to COVID-19

Third case on a local flight this month, compared to 14 through January

An investigation is underway after a man was shot and killed by Tofino RCMP in Opitsaht. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man shot and killed by RCMP near Tofino, police watchdog investigating

Investigation underway by Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia.

B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Tuesday December 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s compromise on in-person worship at three churches called ‘absolutely unacceptable’

Would allow outdoor services of 25 or less by Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack churches

Wills Hodgkinson, 10, and his mom Neeley Brimer get ready to battle round three of cancer. The community of Penticton has his back. (Submitted)
Community raises $21K to help Penticton boy battle third round of cancer

Okanoggin Barbers held the fundraiser on Saturday for 10-year-old Wills Hodgkinson

Baldy Mountain Resort was shut down on Saturday after a fatal workplace accident. (Baldy Mountain picture)
UPDATE: 70-year-old man killed in workplace accident at Baldy Mountain

The mountain closed on Saturday but has partially re-opened today (Sunday)

Jasmine and Gwen Donaldson are part of the CAT team working to reduce stigma for marginalized groups in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Jasmine’s story: Stigma can be the hardest hurdle for those overcoming addiction

Recovering B.C. addict says welcome, connection and community key for rebuilding after drug habit

Kamloops Fire Rescue battled a landfill fire which belched toxic smoke into the air on Feb. 27. (City of Kamloops Photo)
Fire at Kamloops landfill sends thick black smoke into the air

Firefighters made slow progress on the fire throughout the morning.

Most Read