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all kicking off

Circle the date ... Here's why 9 September is set to be a red letter Brexit day in Westminster

It’s all set to kick off again in the Commons from the start of next month – here are the key dates.

BORIS JOHNSON HAS been unwavering in his assertion that the UK will exit the European Union – “do or die” – by the current deadline of 31 October since he entered office.

The standoff between the two sides appears intractable: Johnson and his newly minted ministers say the backstop has to go while the EU leadership continues to insist that won’t happen and that the thrice-rejected withdrawal deal remains the only show in town. 

As far as UK politics is concerned, matters are likely to come to a head next month – with a possible no-confidence vote on the cards as early as Tuesday 3 September, when MPs return, and a potential parliamentary bid to block a no-deal expected by 9 September (the following Monday). 

Another date for your Brexit calendar while we’re at it: remember the debate about the possibility prime minister Johnson could prorogue (essentially, lock the doors) of parliament to force an exit through? A legal challenge on that matter is due to be heard on Friday 6 September. 

It’s expected the EU will be watching those events closely as leaders make a decision on how to proceed in the final weeks leading up to the latest cliff-edge deadline, with another summit due in mid-October.  

So what what’s likely to happen over the next four weeks or so? And when? 

These are the dates to keep an eye on: 

3 September 

It could all escalate quickly after MPs return to Westminster on this date.

Boris Johnson could face a no confidence motion tabled by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as early as 3 Septemberbut in light of the response to his appeal this week calling for MPs to join his effort, at this stage it looks like he’s unlikely to gain the required support. 

But what’s likely to happen if that motion is successful? On the basis of events since the start of the year in Westminster it’s anyone’s guess – but the process it would kick off is (to say the least) a complicated one that could well result in a general election. 

If Johnson loses a confidence vote he would have 14 days to prove he has the support of a majority of MPs to continue. Corbyn could attempt to secure a majority too – and a far less likely scenario could see a compromise candidate put forward to lead a new government. 

At the end of the 14 days, if no grouping has a majority it’s up to the prime minister to advise the Queen when a general election will take place.

It’s speculated, however, that if no alternative government is formed Johnson could simply schedule an election for after the Brexit deadline at the end of October (and a no-deal, don’t forget, would be the default position).

Johnson’s top aide Dominic Cummings said recently that the government could do just that.

Parliament Square rally Jeremy Corbyn's appeal for other opposition party leaders to back his no confidence motion has been met with a mixed response. Victoria Jones / PA Wire Victoria Jones / PA Wire / PA Wire

Labour’s Diane Abbott said at the start of this week that the opposition would need to move quickly once parliament returned. 

And on Thursday Corbyn made his plans clear in a letter as he urged leaders of the other opposition parties and Conservative rebels to move against Johnson and install him as a temporary prime minister.

The Labour leader said that if he won a no-confidence motion he planned to seek an extension to Article 50, after which he would attempt to call a general election (which would require a two-thirds majority under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act).

Labour would campaign for a second referendum in that election, Corbyn’s letter said.

The leader of the Liberal Democrats, Jo Swinson, immediately dismissed the notion of Corbyn taking over as caretaker PM (the party would prefer a cross-party administration headed up by a senior backbencher like Ken Clarke). 

Four rebel and former Tory MPs responded to Corbyn to say they were open to working together towards stopping a no-deal Brexit – but Dominic Grieve, perhaps the most high-profile member of that group, said he had no intention of backing the Labour leader’s bid to enter Downing Street. 

6 September

A legal challenge that would prevent Johnson from attempting to shut the doors of parliament to force through a no-deal will begin at a court in Edinburgh on this date.

More than 70 politicians, including Swinson of the Lib Dems, are backing the legal bid. They’re hoping to persuade the court that any attempt to suspend proceedings in Westminster would be unlawful and unconstitutional

Then-candidate Johnson kicked off the controversy around the potential proroguing of parliament during the Tory leadership campaign – and has since repeatedly refused to rule it out as a measure of last resort. 

  • You’ll find our explainer on proroguing parliament here – but briefly, it’s been suggested that one last-throw-of-the-dice way for the prime minister to ensure Brexit happens is to end the current parliamentary session. This would be different to dissolving the house, which would necessitate an election. The suspension would last only a few weeks – enough time to see Brexit through, the theory goes.  

Boris Johnson holds roundtable on crime Johnson has repeatedly refused to rule out suspending parliament to see Brexit through. PA Wire / PA Images PA Wire / PA Images / PA Images

The case is to be heard initially in the Scottish courts because they sit in the summer, and the judge has fixed a full hearing for 6 September

Johnson’s refusal to rule out suspending parliament was such a controversial position during the leadership contest that one rival, Rory Stewart, went as far as to promise to set up an alternative parliament if he followed through on the move.  

“If he were to try, I and every other member of parliament, will sit across the road in Methodist Central Hall and we will hold our own session of parliament,” Stewart said.

In his first public comments since Johnson took over at Number 10, meanwhile, Commons speaker John Bercow said this week he would fight an attempt to bypass parliament “with every bone in my body”. 

“Nobody is going to get away as far as I am concerned” with stopping MPs taking action to avoid no-deal, Bercow told the Telegraph

9 September 

In a process entirely separate from any potential no-confidence motion, MPs trying to block a no-deal Brexit could launch their legislative effort on or around this date.  

It’s expected the cross-party group of MPs opposed to no-deal will try to take control of the Commons schedule to carve out parliamentary time for new legislation that would force the prime minister to request an extension to the Brexit deadline. 

A similar move took place back in April, and the vote to force Theresa May’s hand passed in the house by a margin of just one

According to reports in the UK this week, government sources believe the first parliamentary bid to take control of business could happen on 9 September. That’s because the government is required to allow a debate on a report on restoring devolution in Northern Ireland within five days of 4 September. 

Prime Minister's Questions House speaker John Bercow House of Commons House of Commons

The Institute for Government think-tank warned in a report this week that there are limited opportunities for MPs to initiate the process – and said that cancelling the traditional break in sittings to allow for party conference season still may not give them enough time. As the report explains: 

MPs may want to repeat the process that led to the ‘Cooper Act’ in March, which forced the government to seek an extension (although it had already requested an extension before the Act came into law). But as the government controls most of the time in the Commons there are limited opportunities for MPs to initiate this process, even if the Speaker helps facilitate such a move. Cancelling the planned conference recess alone will not necessarily create new opportunities.

Other dates to keep an eye on   

Before it all kicks off in Westminster again, the G7 meets in France on 24-26 of August. Boris Johnson is set to have his first face-to-face meeting with US President Donald Trump at this meeting of world powers in the seaside town of Biarritz.

He’ll also have the opportunity to speak in person to the likes of Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel (but not Leo Varadkar – a date for the first one-on-one meeting between the Irish and UK leaders is still yet to be confirmed). 

Taoiseach makes Ryder Cup announcement Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. PA Wire / PA Images PA Wire / PA Images / PA Images

People will be interested to hear what US Vice President Mike Pence has to say about Brexit and the Good Friday Agreement when he visits Ireland on 6 September. The visit comes in the wake of Democrat Nancy Pelosi’s warning that a US-UK trade deal will not pass through Congress if it undermines the peace agreement. 

In the UK again, the traditional three-week break for party conferences, mentioned above, takes place from mid-September to mid-October – but, again as stated above, there’s a chance that won’t happen at all this year if MPs manage to take control of Commons business.  

On the parliamentary front here, the Dáil won’t be returning until 17 September – but we can expect Brexit to dominate the agenda at the various party think-ins taking place in the preceding weeks.  

Looking slightly further ahead, Budget Day here will be on 8 October and the next EU summit won’t take place until October 17-18.

Amidst all that – here’s one last date for your calendar: some pundits in the UK reckon 10 October is Boris Johnson’s best bet for a snap general election. 

Safe to say, after a prolonged break Brexit-watchers will be hearing a lot more chuntering of “order” from this man from the start of next month… 

Daily Mail / YouTube

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