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ON THE AGENDA tonight: 

  • Parliament will be prorogued in the early hours of this morning for several weeks until the middle of October. 
  • In the early hours of this morning, MPs rejected Boris Johnson’s bid to hold an early general election.
  • A debate took place earlier on Northern Ireland’s future. 

 

It’s set to be a late night in the House of Commons this evening, as Boris Johnson tries to persuade MPs to hold an early election. 

As of now, it looks as if Jeremy Corbyn and other opposition leaders will refuse to back the government motion.

Regardless of what happens, Dominic McGrath will guide you through the last few hours before the British parliament is prorogued. 

It’s already been a busy evening over in Westminster. Earlier, MPs backed a motion requiring the release of no-deal planning documents and documents relating to the suspension of parliament. 

The motion, put forward by Dominic Grieve who lost the Conservative Party whip last week, requires the release of all internal communications, including with Boris Johnson’s controversial adviser Dominic Cummings. 

Currently, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Julian Smith is discussing the governance of the North, which is still without a government amid fears that a no-deal Brexit could add further instability to the region. 

For more on the early vote, read this piece by Cónal Thomas. 

For anyone who hasn’t been following Brexit today (lucky you) you might want to know what’s happening this evening. 

  • At around 10pm, we’re going to have a debate on Boris Johnson’s motion calling for a general election. 
  • Once that’s finished, parliament will be prorogued in a formal ceremony

What happens after that? Well, like a lot of things in the UK at the moment, it’s all a little uncertain. 

Julian Smith was discussing plans for the legalisation of abortion law in Northern Ireland. 

In July, the House of Commons voted to introduce gay marriage and abortion by 21 October if power-sharing isn’t restored. 

Smith said civil servants are working “to develop an appropriate new legal framework” for early 2020 on abortion in Northern Ireland. 

DUP MP Ian Paisley, whose party opposed the bill to legalise abortion, condemned “the complete and total legal chaos” of the plan. 

HoC Ian Paisley and Sammy Wilson during this evening's debate. Source: House of Commons

Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Tony Lloyd, is now speaking in the House of Commons. 

Prorogation, direct rule and the looming reality of a hard border have all been discussed in pretty tame, consensual exchanges between MPs on the issues facing the North. 

“There has to be a maintenance of the dialogue between Dublin and London,” Lloyd says. 

I’m sure Boris Johnson agrees. 

boris-johnson-visit-to-ireland Source: Niall Carson/PA Wire/PA Images

It’s hard to disagree with the BBC’s Jayne McCormack here. All the talk has been on the upcoming election vote – very little debate today has focused on this Northern Ireland discussion. 

The chamber is also largely empty, despite there being consensus on the fact Northern Ireland is set to be worst hit by Brexit and is currently caught in a legal and administrative vacuum. 

Here are some of the best quotes of the debate so far: 

Tory MP Simon Hoare criticises Sinn Féin and the DUP: “If they don’t step up to the plate pretty damn soon, there will be other parties who will point to them and say ‘You’ve tried them and failed. You’ve got to give us a chance’.”

SNP MP Gavin Newlands on direct rule: “The return to direct rule would seriously undermine years of progress and successive political agreements… The reckless Brexit position taken by this government is now the central instability preventing the return of power sharing.”

On a non-Northern Ireland update, apparently the government is going to hand over documents on no-deal preparations after a bill backed by Dominic Grieve was voted through parliament earlier this evening. 

Watch out for those tomorrow – it’s important to remember that parliament forcing the government to hand over apparently sensitive documents is a significant development.

The extent of no-deal planning has been the subject of considerable scrutiny in recent days. On Sunday, Amber Rudd quit the Cabinet and the Conservative Party, telling Johnson that she no longer believes that “leaving with a deal is the government’s main objective”. 

Some of the criticism of the DUP this evening appears to have touched a nerve. 

“They boycott this place, they boycott the Executive, they boycott the Assembly and then we’re told it’s all the fault of one party,” the DUP’s Nigel Dodds told the House of Commons this evening, referring to Sinn Féin. 

Capture Source: House of Commons

The debate on an early election should be taking place soon – the chamber is starting to fill up again.

Before things kick off and as the Northern Ireland debate wraps up, it’s important to bear in mind that Boris Johnson looks set for another major defeat as he tries to secure an early election. 

What does this mean the debate will look like? It’s hard to tell, but we might get a small glimpse of the kind of rhetoric the parties will try and deploy in an upcoming election -whenever it might be. 

It might also offer Boris Johnson and the Conservatives the chance to produce more, er, jokes about chickens and Jeremy Corbyn. 

“The human rights of the people of Northern Ireland shouldn’t be abandoned in the face of political indecision,” Labour’s Stella Creasy says. 

Creasy led the legislative push for abortion reform in Northern Ireland. 

She is currently questioning Julian Smith on how abortion reform will be implemented in Northern Ireland after 21 October. 

The Guardian is reporting that the Liberal Democrats are set to back revoking Article 50 – which would mean stopping the UK’s exit from the EU. You can read the piece here

Here’s an extract: 

The Liberal Democrats are set to officially back revoking article 50 in an attempt to position themselves as the most pro-EU political party.

The move would effectively sever the chances of an alliance with Labour at a forthcoming general election.

The Lib Dem leader, Jo Swinson, said she would support the cancellation of Brexit, and the party expected to adopt this policy and write it into its election manifesto.

“I relish the chance to take the fight to Boris Johnson in an election and I’m confident we’d make significant gains,” said Swinson, who was elected as the party’s first female leader in July.

“Whenever the election comes, our position is clear and unequivocal. A majority Liberal Democrat government would not renegotiate Brexit, we would cancel it by revoking article 50 and remaining in the European Union.”

She will take the proposal to a vote at the party’s autumn conference in Bournemouth, which starts on Saturday.

The Northern Ireland debate is now over and there is a brief debate on the restoration of parliament. 

We should be getting to the motion on an early election soon. 

The debate has now started and things are sounding quite similar to last week. 

With Tory MPs jeering behind him, Boris Johnson is taunting Jeremy Corbyn’s decision not to back an election. 

“The only fear is that we will win it,” Johnson tells MPs to roars and cheers. 

It’s going to be that kind of evening. 

Capture Source: House of Commons

“The only options he likes are dither and delay”

Johnson has so far taken aim at the Liberal Democrats, Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party and even the Speaker John Bercow. 

 

Things are getting fiery already. 

Boris Johnson has said he will not ask for another extension from the EU. This sets him on a collision course with both the British parliament and – from today – the law of the land. 

The tone is very very far from the more measured language Johnson was using earlier during his meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

It’s worth reminding ourselves of what he said

“I want to get a deal. Like you, I’ve looked carefully at no deal and assessed its consequences, both for our country and yours, and yes we could do it.

He also sad that a no-deal would be a “failure of state-craft”. 

Just as a reminder, as of today, the government must seek a three-month extension on the Brexit deadline if there is no deal with the EU by 19 October.

Johnson has said he won’t follow the law. 

Jeremy Corbyn is up now. He has labelled the government’s no-deal preparations a “sham” and said that the 2016 referendum gave the government no mandate to crash out of the EU. 

“The Prime Minister is running away from scrutiny with his blather and his shouting,” Corbyn told the House of Commons to much mirth from the Tory benches. 

If Johnson’s narrative is that Corbyn is avoiding an election, then the Labour leader’s plan seems to be to label the Prime Minister as avoiding parliamentary supervision. 

Shoutout for Leo Varadkar from Jeremy Corbyn: 

Why did the Taoiseach tell the Prime Minister only this morning that he has yet to receive realistic, legally binding and workable plans?

I wonder if Leo Varadkar, Simon Coveney and co are watching proceedings this evening? It’s all certainly a change of tone from this morning. 

boris-johnson-visit-to-ireland Source: Niall Carson/PA Wire/PA Images

A certain Green Party MP isn’t impressed…

Someone else seems to think tonight’s debate is a waste of time. Scottish National Party MP Joanna Cherry is currently engaged in legal proceedings attempting to block parliament’s prorogation. 

Certainly, there isn’t much new so far from any side. 

If you want a sense of what the mood is like in the House of Commons right now, this clip does a good job. 

It’s loud, fractious and far from consensus on any issue. And really, there isn’t much actual debate on a general election to be found. 

Video not working? Click here

“We’ve had enough of this dictatorship”

Characteristically, some of the sharpest attacks on Johnson are currently coming from the Scottish National Party’s Ian Blackford. 

Like other opposition leaders, Blackford is stressing that they want to ensure that no-deal is avoided before an election is called. 

prime-ministers-questions Source: House of Commons/PA Wire/PA Images

Here’s a key attack line from Jeremy Corbyn from earlier in the debate: 

The Prime Minister is talking up no deal to one wing of his party and talking up getting a deal to one wing of his party. The sad reality is that he is not preparing adequately for the first and not negotiating at all for the other.

“The braying, the bluster. Britain deserves better.”

Jo Swinson, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, is speaking now. 

As indeed Leo Varadkar made clear today… a no-deal Brexit is just the beginning for many further years of negotiations. If people really want an end to this Brexit mire, the way to do that is to stop Brexit. 

Note that second mention of the Taoiseach – I’m sure he’ll be glad British parliamentarians are listening.

Swinson is repeating her party’s call for a second referendum to let people have a choice between a deal or to remain in the EU.

Capture Source: House of Commons

 

I’m going to go back and highlight some of the points made in an interesting speech by former Conservative minister Alan Duncan, who has been a frequent critic of Boris Johnson. 

Duncan resigned as a Foreign Office minister in July. 

In a wide-ranging speech, Duncan appealed for leniency for the Tory rebels expelled from the party for voting against the government last week

“A route should be found back for those who wish to stand again,” he told MPs. “Selections for an alternative candidate should be suspended to let them know they have a chance.”

He also appealed for calm among politicians in the face of the Brexit crisis. Asking members to considering the “importance of legislation,” he told MPs that “political combat should take second place”. 

This seems to be the general consensus from anyone still awake and watching tonight’s debate.   

With a historic prorogation looming, there hasn’t been much in the way of lofty contributions to Hansard. Boris Johnson doesn’t look like he’s having fun either…

Capture Source: House of Commons

People are getting angry over Theresa May’s resignation honours list

Here’s the Guardian’s piece this evening:

Theresa May has been accused of “rotten” cronyism after handing out peerages, knighthoods and other honours to her closest aides, including her controversial former advisers Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, who left office amid accusations of bullying behaviour.

May’s resignation honours list heaps rewards on those who worked in Downing Street during her three-year tenure, despite her having previously poured scorn on cronyism under David Cameron.

Of Irish interest is the fact that Margaret Ritchie, the former leader of the SDLP, has been given a peerage. 

Voting is now taking place on the Boris Johnson early election bill. So hopefully we’ll have a result in the next 15 minutes. 

Just a reminder that we’re expecting MPs to comfortably oppose holding a general election, thus inflicting another parliamentary defeat on Boris Johnson. 

This doesn’t mean that an election isn’t imminent, however. We’re still expecting one in the coming weeks, possibly in November – but crucially it’ll be the opposition parties that will determine the terms of when the vote actually takes place. 

MPs have rejected Boris Johnson’s bid to call an early general election

The breakdown of the vote:

For: 293

Against: 46

This means that the government did not get the necessary votes to reach the two-thirds majority needed under the Fixed Term Parliament Act. 

It means another government defeat to chalk up and another example of how much power parliament currently has. 

 

 

Just to be clear, the numerical breakdown of the votes can be explained by abstentions. 

Boris Johnson has lambasted MPs and the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for blocking – for the second time – his attempt to call an early general election: 

This government will not delay Brexit any further. We will not allow the emphatic verdict of the referendum to be further suffocated by further calculated drift and paralysis. And while the opposition run from their duty to answer to those who put us here, they cannot hide forever. The moment will come.

Jeremy Corbyn has also had his say on the government’s defeat: 

This government is a disgrace and the way the prime minister operates is a disgrace. I hope the prime minister will reflect on the issue of prorogation and shutting down parliament to avoid a government being held to account, because that is exactly what he has done today.

Cónal Thomas has a full write-up of the vote here

So after tonight’s main story – Johnson’s failure to achieve an early election – parliament will soon be prorogued in a formal ceremony. 

After a long day of parliamentary votes, we’re going to finish up and let you enjoy the constitutional quirks of the prorogation procedure. 

So what happens during a prorogation ceremony? Here’s what to expect as parliament prepares to be suspended for the next several weeks.

We’ll be back tomorrow with more Brexit coverage, but for now we’re signing off. 

boris-johnson-visit-to-ireland Source: PA Wire/PA Images

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