Benn Bill Clears Commons
Having lost the vote on the S024 motion to seize control of the order paper for Tuesdays business (which he deemed to be a confidence issue), it was of little surprise that the Benn bill passed through the Commons. The bill is deigned to force the PM to ask the EU to extend the notice period of its intention to leave the EU until the end of January 2020 if he is unable to secure a deal when the EU leaders meet next month. Given that Johnson claims that good progress is being made in the talks but EU heads say no substantive talks are going on, it seems likely that Johnson will be obliged to call for an extension.
The EU is likely to grant a further extension (if asked) since it is now all but certain that a general election will be held in the next couple of months. Equally (and bizarrely), an amendment seeking to put the May withdrawal deal, modified to accommodate the outcome/wishes of the cross party discussions held in the spring was passed when the government failed to put up tellers (officials that count the number of MPs voting for a bill) for the “nay” lobby. It seems, however, that the Kinnock amendment has no legal force, as drafted.
The Benn Bill is due to be debated by the Lords tonight, after a marathon session on procedural matters last night where pro-Brexit Conservative Lords attempted to filibuster the matter. In the end, that bid failed (or was withdrawn, it is not entirely clear which), so if (as expected) the Bill passes the Lords, it will be sent back to the Commons such that it can gain Royal Assent (making it law) on Monday, before the House rises for prorogation (assuming that it survives court actions questioning its legality, of course).
Bowing to the inevitable, Johnson tabled a motion calling for a general election, under the terms of the fixed terms parliament act. Whilst he won the vote (298 to 56), since much of the opposition abstained, he fell well short of the 2/3rds majority of MPs needed to trigger the election.
The opposition parties are keen to fight a general election, but at a time of their choosing. It seems inconceivable that they would agree to hold the poll on 15/1/19, Johnson’s chosen date, as few trust the PM not to use it to force through a “no deal” Brexit when the House is dissolved to allow the vote. In addition, forcing Johnson to ask for an extension would open him up to ridicule over his “do or die” comments and his assertion that the UK will be leaving the EU on the last day of October.
Sterling rose against the Euro as the day’s events unfolded. It is currently trading at €1.0945, but remains volatile and reacts to political factors.