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The House of Commons returns today - what's Boris got planned?

Rumours of a general election to be held on 17 October engulfed the British political sphere yesterday – so what’s the PM up to?
Sep 3rd 2019, 6:05 AM 7,380 2

THE HOUSE OF Commons is back today, and if you thought that previous Prime Minister’s Questions were dramatic, we’re in for absolute showstoppers this week.

The fractured British parliament resumes after a five-week summer recess to debate Brexit and prorogation, to propose Brexit legislation, and possibly trigger a general election – as well as other non EU-exit related topics, of course.

When the British parliament broke on 25 July, subsequent weekend columns suggested that MPs were in need of rest and recuperation, which could do wonders to stimulate new ideas to manoeuvre through this Brexit impasse.

But we’re not sure how rested they’ll be: MPs learned last week that they would lose at least two weeks of parliamentary time to propose legislation and debate Brexit. House Speaker John Bercow was revived from his family holiday to launch a blistering attack on the prorogation decision, stating that it was “blindingly obvious” that it was an attempt to block future Brexit debates.

The queen granted Johnson’s request to prorogue parliament from 9-12 September until 14 October; the UK parliament would have been suspended for three weeks of that time for the political parties to hold their annual conferences (though it had been suggested that some MPs would vote to postpone this due to the bubbling Brexit crisis).

What’s he up to?

So what has Boris Johnson got planned? Since being appointed PM, he’s faced his parliament for just one day before proroguing it; he’s due to host a keenly anticipated Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs), where we’re expected he’ll be verbally eviscerated by MPs on all sides of the House for that decision. PMQs kick off at noon tomorrow.

Later today, he’ll face a crucial vote that Johnson is expected to treat as a confidence motion. 

Opposition members are to attempt to take control of parliamentary business from the government in a vote that some rebel Tories may also support, particularly after Johnson’s prorogation manoeuvre.

If this is successful, a motion to prevent a no-deal Brexit could be tabled, and Johnson is expected to call a general election.

Yesterday, ahead of the cabinet being gathered early and a snap No 10 announcement, many wondered whether the long-ago forecasted general election was coming into view.

An election must be held 25 days after a no-confidence vote or the dissolution of parliament; meaning if it were prompted this week, the 17 October is the most like date for polling day, as its the first Thursday after that, which is the weekday UK elections are usually held. 

Instead though, Johnson announced a Treasury spending plan:

“And so I am proud to say that on Wednesday Chancellor Sajid Javid is going to set out the most ambitious spending round for more than a decade.”

These include  20,000 police officers, 20 new hospital upgrades and increasing funding in primary and secondary schools, according to Johnson. 

Before you read between the lines, Johnson has said he doesn’t want a general election, and wouldn’t be requesting an extension in any circumstances.

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Remainer sources told Sky News and ITV yesterday that they expect Johnson to put down a dissolution motion that would call an election, with what appears to be a “reasonable” polling date before 31 October. But after MPs vote for it (Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he would back a call for an election), Johnson would then use prerogative proclamation power to move polling day to after 31 October.

The day before the prorogation ruckus, British opposition parties agreed to prioritise no-deal Brexit legislation over a no-confidence vote, which was Corbyn’s preferred battle strategy. This week, we find out if they stick to it, having been provoked by prorogation.

A taste of the action

The House of Commons kicks of with oral questions today on topical foreign and commonwealth affairs questions, census legislation and will hear the implications of a no-deal Brexit on the UK’s sheep industry. 

Westminster Hall will hear about the EU Settlement Scheme, while British committees return – interestingly the Foreign Affairs Committee will begin by looking at ‘Autocracies and UK Foreign Policy’.

On Thursday, the Northern Ireland Affairs committee will consult on implementing the Stormont House Agreement, and the Home Affairs committee will be asked about Brexit preparations in the Thatcher Room.

The Treasury committee will discuss the UK’s economic relationship with the EU, and the European Scrutiny committee will ask about ‘Post-Brexit Scrutiny of EU Law and Policy’.

At 2.45pm, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committee will ask the very pointed question of: “Is the Department of Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs ready for Brexit?”

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Gráinne Ní Aodha

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