As expected, Monday was another dubious day for Boris Johnson and the country he leads (?)
Among other things, the legislation that prevents Boris from taking the UK out of the EU without a deal on October 31 became law. Johnson will have to request a three-month Brexit extension if he can’t either secure a deal or else get Parliament to back a no-deal divorce by October 19.
Boris is still sticking with the contention that he’d “rather be dead in a ditch” than ask for an extension, but as of 3:30 (give or take) on Monday, the bill is law.
After that, John Bercow said he’d step down as Commons Speaker by October 31, and indicated he’d resign on Monday night should MPs vote for Johnson’s early election push (they did not – more on that below).
He described the timing of his departure as “the least disruptive and most democratic action”. To wit:
Least disruptive because that date will fall shortly after the votes on the Queen’s speech expected on 21 and 22 October. The week or so after that may be quite lively and it would be best to have an experienced figure in the chair for that short period. Most democratic because it will mean that a ballot is held when all members have some knowledge of the candidates.
Jeremy Corbyn – along with a host of others – delivered tributes lasting more than an hour. Here’s Corbyn:
Once everybody had a chance to express their feelings about Bercow to Bercow, MPs voted 311 to 302 to force the publication of government communications around the suspension of Parliament. That motion was brought by Dominic Grieve, who also demanded the dissemination of paperwork related to no-deal Brexit plans.
From there, MPs debated whether Boris is required to obey the law passed earlier on Monday (the one that prevents him from taking the UK out of the EU without a deal next month). Long story short, he is – required to obey the law, that is. That was established without a formal vote.
Dominic Raab – who on Sunday told Sky that the government would “test what [the bill] legally requires and what it doesn’t require” – called the legislation “flawed”, but said Johnson would “always respect the rule of law”. He went on to encourage opposition parties to go along with the idea of a general election, because that’s “constitutionally the correct course of action”.
On Friday, the opposition united around a plan to stop a snap vote until such a time as Johnson actually requests the delay, because, for lack of a better way to put it, nobody trusts Boris.
Johnson made the case for an election (again), accusing Labour of “preposterous cowardice”, and insisting that he “will not ask for another delay”. Of course, that position cannot be readily reconciled with the new law which specifically mandates that he ask for a delay barring a deal or backing from lawmakers. Corbyn subsequently called Johnson’s claims about working towards a new deal with the EU a “sham”.
Finally, MPs rejected Boris’s second attempt to force an early general election. The vote was 293-46, in favor. He needed 434.
“I urged the House to trust the people, but once again the opposition think they know better”, Boris seethed, in a bit of final, post-vote dramatics.
“This government will not delay Brexit any further. We will not allow the emphatic verdict of the referendum to be slowly suffocated by further calculated drift and paralysis”, Johnson declared.
“While the opposition run, they cannot hide forever!”, he went on to shout. “The moment will come!”
So, that’s how that went.
Parliament will now be suspended until October 14.