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Friday 29 September 2023 Dublin: 11°C
# Taking Stock
What's going to happen in the 9 weeks between now and the Brexit deadline?
The UK and the EU are running out of time, options and patience (you’d imagine).

xinhua-headlines-britain-eu-wrestle-with-challenges-as-uncertainty-drags-on-beyond-brexit-day Xinhua News Agency / PA Images A statue of Winston Churchill and Big Ben. Xinhua News Agency / PA Images / PA Images

AFTER THE EUROPEAN Council agreed to grant the UK’s request to push back the Brexit date to 31 October, its President Donald Tusk said, “Please don’t waste this time.”

With just nine weeks left out of that 29-week extension, the Withdrawal Agreement is no more likely to be passed in the House of Commons, and the EU and UK are no closer to reaching a different compromise.

Now, the prorogation of parliament means that there is even less time for the House of Commons to settle on what they want: the parliament will be suspended from somewhere between the 9 and 12 September until 14 October. Although three weeks of this had included the annual recess to allow for party conferences, it had been suggested that MPs would propose a vote to forgo that tradition to grapple with the Brexit crisis its country is in.

It takes around four weeks for legislation to pass through the House of Commons, after which it goes to the House of Lords for a similar time period (bills can also begin in the House of Lords, too). 

Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has suggested holding meetings twice a week with EU officials for the whole of September to try to glean a solution to the current deadlock.

3 September

britain-london-boris-johnson-house-of-commons-statement Xinhua News Agency / PA Images Xinhua News Agency / PA Images / PA Images

On Tuesday, MPs will return from their six-week summer recess – which began one day after Boris Johnson became Prime Minister – to battle once again over Brexit.

Johnson has vowed to leave with or without a deal on 31 October, but MPs aren’t happy with either of those options – having rejected the Withdrawal Agreement three times by large majorities, and also rejecting a no deal under any circumstances.

In March, during a series of votes on how to take Brexit forward, a majority of 321 MPs voted against a no-deal Brexit at any time, with 278 voting in favour. 

We’re expecting an effort from parliamentarians soon after they return to propose legislation to stop a no-deal Brexit, but as mentioned above, they don’t have much time to do that.

Despite an agreement by all opposition parties in the House of Commons to prioritise this legislation, the proroguing of parliament puts a motion of no confidence back on the table. 

If Johnson loses this, he has 14 days to win another no-confidence vote, which isn’t likely to happen. If he doesn’t win a second one, parliament will dissolve and a general election will be called within 25 days.

3-5 September

pm-education-announcement PA Wire / PA Images Prime Minister Boris Johnson takes questions from children aged 9-14, during an announcement on education at 10 Downing Street. PA Wire / PA Images / PA Images

Three legal challenges have sprouted from Johnson’s decision to prorogue parliament – in London, Belfast and Edinburgh.

On Friday last week, Lord Raymond Doherty told the Court of Session in Edinburgh that he wouldn’t place an interim injunction on the parliament suspension, but said that the full hearing would be heard on Tuesday 3 September.

The legal action taken in London by campaigner Gina Miller and former Prime Minister John Major will be heard by the courts on Thursday 5 September.

Johnson is also to visit Dublin in early September (we have no more specific information than that) so keep an eye out for when he may be landing.

9-12 September

britain-brexit Matt Dunham An anti-Brexit supporter holds up a Pro Rogue's Gallery sign. Matt Dunham

As we all well know, this Wednesday Queen Elizabeth II agreed to suspend parliament – a procedure known as “proroguing” – in the second week of September on Johnson’s request.

This erases the legislative agenda and starts it anew: Johnson claimed it was being done to roll out a “bold and ambitious domestic legislative agenda”, while others including House Speaker John Bercow said it was “blindingly obvious” that it was being done to close any gaps left to thwart a no-deal Brexit.

The precise date of suspension is up to the government and a debate is currently scheduled on legislation relating to Northern Ireland on 9 September, so it seems likely that the suspension will occur after that. That same day, EU negotiator Michel Barnier is due to give a speech in Queen’s University Belfast on “Brexit and the Future of Europe”.

14 September – 2 October

brexit-party-conference-london Empics Entertainment Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage speaking at a one-day Brexit Party conference in Westminster. Empics Entertainment

The House of Commons takes a recess every year at this time so that Britain’s main political parties can hold their annual conferences, to be dominated this year by discussions over Brexit, proroguing parliament, and Boris.

Johnson will make his first appearance as party head at the Tories’ gathering in Manchester from 29 September to 2 October.

Meanwhile, the Brexit Party will have been holding clusters of events around the UK, with a dozen separate dates marked in September alone. Off the back of their surprising surge in the European elections, they’re looking to gather support for any upcoming general elections (currently rumoured for 10 October). As it stands, it already has 635 candidates on its approved list.

The Dáil resumes business (assuming it’s not recalled early) on 17 September and Ireland’s Budget 2020 is to be announced on 8 October.

14 October

queen-summer-residence-at-balmoral-2019 PA Wire / PA Images There she is. PA Wire / PA Images / PA Images

MPs will reconvene for a new parliamentary session with a speech by Queen Elizabeth II setting out the government’s legislative plans, which Johnson has said will focus on health and crime.

It will most likely be consumed by Britain’s impending departure from the EU just over two weeks later, with a crunch vote possible on any Brexit deal newly-agreed with the EU.

Leader of the House Jacob Rees Mogg said that although there are four to five days set aside to specifically debate the government’s new legislative agenda, MPs will be able to table motions on the UK’s looming departure from the EU.

17-18 October

g7-summit-2019 PA Wire / PA Images Boris Johnson meets European Council President Donald Tusk for talks during the G7 summit. PA Wire / PA Images / PA Images

The final European Council summit before the Brexit deadline will see leaders from across the 28-member bloc meet in Brussels, in what is expected to be the most illuminating of all the dates mentioned thus far.

There hasn’t been much budging from the original Brexit positions we’ve had before: the EU says the Withdrawal Agreement is not up for renegotiation and the backstop stays, while the UK says the parliament has rejected this deal three times, and they want a new deal (probably without the backstop).

As Johnson admitted himself this week and numerous times before, he’s hoping that the threat of a no-deal Brexit two weeks later will be enough to secure concessions to the deal that he can take back to London for parliamentary approval.

The House of Commons will vote on 21 and 22 October on the government’s legislative agenda, 10 Downing Street said in a statement on the prorogation, which are expected to be a de-facto vote on a no-deal Brexit.

31 October

The deadline for Britain’s departure from the EU after more than four decades of membership.

Originally scheduled to leave on 29 March, then pushed back to 12 April, the appetite for a third extension within the European Council will be waning fast, particularly as the political and constitutional crisis in the UK deepens.

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