With the chances of a Brexit deal now considered ‘touch and go’, the UK could still leave the European Union on October 31st without a deal. But how could it be stopped?
We answer your questions on what might happen next…
– When could this happen?
MPs return to parliament from their summer break next Tuesday. With the Commons due to rise again during the annual autumn party conference season, there are only a few weeks of sitting days in September and October, when MPs who oppose a no-deal Brexit, could try to act, before Britain is due by default to exit the EU on October 31.
– What options are available to stop a no-deal Brexit?
– Leaving with a deal
This would by definition stop a no-deal Brexit on Halloween, but the Institute for Government (IfG) has noted in its Voting on Brexit paper, it is “very unlikely” the UK will be able to leave the EU with a deal on October 31. Johnson said at the G7 summit that he was “marginally more optimistic” about a possible Brexit deal, but the impasse with the EU over the backstop remains. The IfG points out little time exists to pass the legislation needed to implement any deal secured, adding the prime minister would “probably need an extension to complete ratification”.
– MPs attempt to legislate to stop no-deal
MPs could legislate to halt no deal but there are “very few” opportunities for MPs to do this.
As the IfG points out, MPs can express opposition to no-deal, but that alone will not prevent it happening. Voting against no-deal “would not require the Government to act, nor would it change the law”.
There are limited chances for backbenchers to seize control of the order as previously tried even if this move was facilitated by Commons speaker John Bercow. There has also been the suggestion that Johnson could consider proroguing parliament in order to pursue a no-deal Brexit.
– Holding a vote of no confidence
Opposition MPs are increasingly vocal about having a no confidence vote in the government on parliament’s return.
A motion would need to be tabled by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, but the IfG has warned the process “would not necessarily stop no deal”. A vote even if successful, would require the formation of an emergency government of national unity, the form of which has been hotly debated.
MPs are divided on Corbyn leading such a process and suggesting Tory Father of the House Ken Clarke or Labour Mother of the House Harriet Harman assume the role. Johnson could refuse to follow constitutional convention to resign.
– Holding a general election
Despite speculation that Johnson’s team favour going to the polls to secure a mandate for his strategy, plus repeated calls from opposition MPs to go back to voters to secure a change of government, there is little time in reality to hold a general election before October 31.
– Having a second referendum on Britain’s EU membership
This option failed to secure a parliamentary majority during the indicative votes process earlier this year.
Such a move could only happen with government support through legislation and the government’s position is to pursue Brexit and leave the EU on October 31 following the referendum decision in 2016. Revoking Article 50 and remaining in the EU although backed by some MPs has failed to win enough parliamentary support and is opposed by the government.