Aug 15, 2019

Brexit countdown: The scramble to build barriers to Boris

Boris Johnson visits the Fusion Energy Research Centre at the Culham Science Centre on August 8, 2019 in Abingdon, England. Photo: Julian Simmonds - WPA Pool/Getty Images

Boris Johnson has ordered the U.K.'s civil service to make preparations for a no-deal Brexit its "top priority," a directive that comes the same week the government has reportedly drawn up plans to stop British diplomats from attending EU meetings.

Why it matters: 3 weeks into his premiership, Johnson appears hell-bent on fulfilling the campaign promise that paved his path to Downing Street: delivering Brexit on Oct. 31, "do or die."

  • The problem? There is no parliamentary majority for a no-deal Brexit, which carries potential consequences ranging from recession to drug shortages to the slaughter of millions of sheep.
  • That has Parliament, which returns from recess on Sept. 3, plotting ways to stop Johnson and the runaway Brexit train.

Option #1 is a legislative fix forcing the government to seek another extension from the EU. But with no amendable Brexit bills on the agenda, MPs don't have a clear mechanism to pass binding legislation.

  • Johnson's top adviser, Dominic Cummings, has also suggested Johnson could suspend Parliament to get Brexit over the line.
  • Commons Speaker John Bercow vowed to fight such a move with "every bone in my body."

Option #2 is a vote of no-confidence brought by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, which would give MPs a window of 14 days to form a caretaker government with the express purpose of blocking no-deal.

  • There would likely be a majority for a so-called "government of national unity" — if not for the contempt many MPs have for Corbyn. Jo Swinson, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said Thursday that she'd do "whatever it takes" to stop a no-deal ... but she won't do that.
  • Even if there was a majority, the Machiavellian Cummings has suggested Johnson isn't legally required to resign after losing a no-confidence vote, and would instead hold a "people vs. politicians" general election — after Brexit on Oct. 31.

That leads us to Option #3: The 93-year-old, historically apolitical Queen Elizabeth II is the only person with the absolute authority to sack Johnson and stop a no-deal.

  • A royal intervention would be dramatic (and a boon for Netflix as it launches season 3 of The Crown), but it's highly unlikely.

Go deeper: Nancy Pelosi rules out U.K. trade deal if Brexit creates hard Irish border

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What Boris Johnson's suspension of Parliament means for Brexit

Queen Elizabeth II welcomes U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: Victoria Jones/WPA Pool/Getty Images

Queen Elizabeth II approved Wednesday U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson's request to "prorogue," or suspend, Parliament between the second week of September and Oct. 14.

Between the lines: In a letter to lawmakers, Johnson said he had asked the queen to suspend Parliament to give his government a fresh chance to set out a "new bold and ambitious domestic agenda." While this may be grounded in some truth, the real purpose of the dramatic move is to limit the amount of time opposition members of Parliament have to block a "no-deal" Brexit, the default — and potentially disastrous — legal option on Oct. 31.

Go deeperArrowAug 28, 2019

Parliament blocks Boris Johnson from calling snap election for 2nd time

Boris Johnson. Photo: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

On the U.K. Parliament's last night before beginning a month-long suspension, Prime Minister Boris Johnson failed for the 2nd time to earn the two-thirds majority necessary to call a snap general election.

Why it matters: Johnson was hoping to use an election to circumvent a law passed by Parliament last week that will require him to seek a Brexit extension rather than crash out of the EU without a deal on Oct. 31. The prime minister has said he would rather be "dead in a ditch" than seek an extension, but he now appears to be left with little other choice outside of breaking the law.

Go deeperArrowSep 9, 2019

Westminster mayhem

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: House of Commons/PA Images via Getty Images

The U.K. House of Commons voted 327-299 on Wednesday to pass a bill forcing Prime Minister Boris Johnson to seek a Brexit extension rather than take the country out of the European Union on Oct. 31 without a divorce deal.

Why it matters: Less than a day after expelling 21 rebel lawmakers from his own Conservative Party, Johnson saw his government defeated in Parliament for the 2nd consecutive time. Hours later, Parliament rejected Johnson's proposal to hold a general election on Oct. 15, which he hoped could earn him a fresh majority to resolve the Brexit impasse.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Sep 4, 2019