1. Mr Johnson advises the Queen not to assent to the Benn Bill, and makes it a confidence issue (as I posted elsewhere). If he wins confidence, the Bill dies, if he loses, either a GE or the pantomime horse grand coalition of Ken Clarke/Jeremy Corbyn as PM.

    Or Mr Johnson makes the office of Prime Minister impotent by transferring all its prerogative powers to the First Lord of the Treasury and he resigns as PM, remaining First Lord (or he takes the office of Lord High Treasurer out of commission and appoints himself to that post just to troll the Left) and resigns as PM, leaving the Queen to ask the House of Commons who wishes to be PM.

  2. A fresh election vote will be held on Monday. It is not clear from the reporting (well, not to me, anyway) whether there is an explicit deal with Labour to support the election bill on Monday or whether they simply plan to force Labour to do what it said when abstaining or else reveal hiw afraid they are of an election, then get an election another way.

    It is possible Boris thought having all the conventional opposition parties’ fingerprints on the bill, and the bill be the explicit alternative to his victory, was not worth fighting against.

  3. “This is really hard to predict”

    There will be vileness by the bucketload, but I can’t see Mr Johnson getting off the hook without Mr Corbyn doing something strategically stupid (from his pov) like agreeing to a General Election held before 31st October 2019.

  4. It’s hard to vote in a revolution.

  5. I haven’t read the Benn bill, but what exactly does it instruct BoJo to do? I mean if he is instructed to go ask for an extension he can surely do so in such a way that they are guaranteed to say no. “Mr. Barnier please can we have an extension, on the full understanding that Paris will drop French as its official language, and agree that the British invented the baguette.”

    I hope he does not ask the queen to refuse assent. That really would be a constitutional crisis and would leave here in a very difficult spot.

  6. Fraser Orr: he’s got to ask by way of a letter, the wording of which is specified in the bill.



    Boris keeps saying he won’t ask (or at least would rather be found dead in a ditch). Internet is rife with speculation about ways he could get out of it but I can’t tell which ones are plausible.

  7. I hope he does not ask the queen to refuse assent. That really would be a constitutional crisis and would leave here in a very difficult spot.

    Can’t bring the Queen into the middle of a political battle like this. Brenda’s minions will quite rightly say “This is a problem of your own making, especially given the FTPA, so you need to fix it yourself”. Boris is not some slack jawed yokel and actually understands this, so even if Dominic Cummings was to suggest it (as he is right to do), Boris would reject it, regardless of the outcome.

    His agenda seems to be to portray the rebels as traitors working with the countries enemies in the EU and using unconstitutional parliamentary tricks to achieve that. He starts doing the same by using Her Mag and he becomes guilty of the same accusation.

    His view at the moment seems to be to keep battering at the door of “Let’s take this to the country” until Labour relents. I hope he’s right, because becoming a marionette controlled by the parliamentary puppetry of this new act is certainly not to my taste. It makes a mockery of government.

  8. The Brexiteer cause survives through outrage at Remain deception at this point.

    The vote has happened and the Decepticons have reneged on democracy and have the Parliamentary muscle to kick the can down the road to as long as the EU agrees.

    So Bojo needs to show that all that will do is make the punishment vote delivered to Decepticon parties all the greater when the unavoidable general election occurs. Bojo is the last chance for not just the Tories, but Labour to avoid joining the Lib Dems as electorally irrelevant. A surrender deal or a art 50 revocation is a Brexit party win come next GE if the Pro-Independence vote stays angry and motivated….
    This is where Cummings and Boris probably have differing agendas….

  9. I think the EU needs to start asking the question “If we force the UK to remain against the expressed will of a democratic majority will that make EU survival MORE LIKELY or LESS LIKELY?”

    The anger will not subside just because a bunch of wankers we all despise write bullshit on pieces of paper. There is a reason they say that “The government should fear the people”. The Parliament of Knaves seems to have forgotten that.

  10. What happens if Boris simply refuses to do what the law demands? Also… has any government ever made a motion of no confidence in itself & then whipped the party to vote for no confidence to force an election?

  11. Perry, 2nd point, there is a HoC report on this very point, salient parts below. Bit hard to post from my device, but it’s about ,mis-use’

    ‘Possible misuse of Section 2(3)
    20. As set out above, if a Government wishes to call an early general election, the Act requires a majority of two-thirds of the Members of the House under the Section 2(1) procedure. It was this procedure that was used by the Prime Minister in 2017 to bring about an early general election. However, the second route to an early general election through a no con dence motion under Section 2(3) occurs on a simple majority of the House of Commons. is has raised the possibility, however unlikely, that a Government faced with a House of Commons unwilling to pass the section 2(1) motion by the necessary two-thirds majority could circumvent the requirement for a two-thirds majority by tabling a no con dence motion in itself under Section 2(3) and then whipping its Members to vote for the motion. e Government could then wait out the 14-day period and bring about a general election on a simple majority, essentially “gaming” the Act.

    21. is concern was raised during the passage of the Act and Rt Hon Mark Harper MP, in his then capacity as the Minister for Political and Constitutional reform, said that it would be “absolutely unconstitutional” for a Prime Minster to behave that way. Mr Harper stood by these comments in evidence to the inquiry, and said that while it would be “legally permissible”, taking this route would be “running against the spirit of the legislation and would not be something that would be appropriate”. He stated that the main check on this occurring was a political one as he suggested the “public would not respond well to a Government behaving in that way.”19

    22. e Leader of the House, when asked about this potential loophole in the Act, did not seem to share Mr Harper’s view that a government moving a no con dence motion in itself in order to circumvent the requirement for a two-thirds majority would be unconstitutional. She said:

    What I would say there is that this Act is binding on all and therefore any no con dence motion under that Act would be constitutional by de nition, because it is part of a legally binding Act of Parliament. I would say that any no con dence motion under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act by de nition has statutory e ect and is therefore constitutional.

    23. We agree with the view expressed by Rt Hon Mark Harper MP that a governing party seeking to bring about a general election through the “no con dence” mechanism provided by Section 2(3) of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 in order to circumvent the requirement for a majority of at least two-thirds under the Section 2(1) risks a political penalty at the ballot box; and this is likely to be enough of a deterrent to prevent any Government from using section 2(3) to bring about a general election. It is our view that, while legally possible, it would be entirely inappropriate for a Government to use the simple majority route to a general election under section 2(3) to circumvent the requirement for a two-thirds majority in Section 2(1). However, it must be accepted that there is nothing in law to prevent such an abuse.

  12. So that’s a “Yes” then Mr. Ed.

  13. JG,

    A Yes? Yes insofar as likely but no one knows. It is untested, but the government can timetable a motion, but what if the Speaker might rule it out of order by pulling precedent out of his backside, so preventing the House from voting on it?

  14. What happens if Boris simply refuses to do what the law demands?

    The issue of giving a task you want done to someone who doesn’t want to do it – e.g. giving Brexit to a parliament that thinks we should remain – is one we now have some experience with.

    From the point of view of running out the clock, Boris might be wiser to resort to lawfare or contrivance than to present the easier target of an immediate explicit quotable absolute refusal before it was too late for his enemies to reverse (and could certainly afterwards say he was following parliaments example in this). Maybe he could say he was concerned that so specific a law passed the executive/legislative divide or otherwise raise a case. Or he could delay till an hour before the deadline for asking and then have a politic illness – there are historical precedents.

    As to what parliament could do about it:

    1) Before Blair’s idiocies, parliament was itself a court of judicature – not the house of commons alone but parliament as a whole – and their course of action (“Your mission, Jeremy – if you decide to accept it” 🙂 ) would be to prosecute hm themselves.

    2) As is becoming all too plain, the inept laws of recent years have created an unclear situation. Is parliament still a court for such a case? Does the supreme court have jurisdiction?

    And of course, even if they got a conviction before the 31st, if Boris is still prime minister can he forget to order the police to arrest him?

    The bottom line of course is that the absurdity of a parliament that will not call an election or a vote of no confidence trying to remove him by these means would be hard to defend to the wider public, however much SW1 might like it. But that is nothing to your other question, which deserves a comment in its own right.

  15. has any government ever made a motion of no confidence in itself & then whipped the party to vote for no confidence to force an election?

    So much that is “inappropriate” has happened that MP Harper’s feeling that such a suggestion is not in the best of parliamentary good taste seems a very very weak reed for a remoaner to lean on. That Bercow should refuse to put a motion of no-confidence to the vote also seems very hard to defend procedurally – especially if we suppose that Boris arranges for DUP members to propose and second the motion, so it is not, formally, a government or a ruling party proposing no-confidence in itself.

    IIUC, the whole of the Labour, LibDem, Plaid, Green and SNP would have to vote that they had confidence in Boris’ administration, and be supported by sufficient Tory rebels. Could a viable motion be “This house has no confidence in the government’s ability to secure an acceptable deal with the EU in current circumstances?” I think it would be easier for brexitters to vote for that than remoaners to vote against it. While the spectacle will provoke much laughter about all sides, it seems to me the populists can stand it far better than the “experts know best” people.

  16. Another question concerns the Queen’s speech on the 14th October, five days before the 19th of October on which the latest act demands Boris send a letter to the EU asking for extension. Traditionally, this has been seen as an effective no-confidence vote. You can find argument on the web that the fix parliament act changes things, but the key word is ‘argument’. My (for from expert) opinion is that Boris would have a strong position if he advised her majesty that it was a motion of no-confidence, whatever speaker Bercow said, thus forcing the whole of the opposition to vote for it or experience an immediate dissolution.

  17. That would be the ‘fixed parliament’ act in the above. I can’t think why I typed ‘fix parliament’ 🙂

  18. My final thought for today concerns the ability of any one EU leader to veto any extension (IIUC). May wanted her extensions so it was unlikely any EU leader would see value in saying no and thus annoying both the British PM and the EU. Is Boris friendly enough with any EU leader and/or does any EU leader have their own agenda that would lead to certainty of the extension being vetoed (i.e. making it safe to ask or OK for Boris not to bother asking “because “they will say no”)?

  19. ‘Could a viable motion be “This house has no confidence in the government’s ability to secure an acceptable deal with the EU in current circumstances?’

    No, the exact wording in the FTPA 2011 only will have the effect.

  20. Mr Ed (6th September 2019 at 10:46 pm), I take your point as regards the technicality but presumably Boris (or whoever is deputed to propose it) could end a speech with, “Regrettably, therefore, I can feel no confidence in the government’s ability to secure an acceptable deal with the EU in current circumstances, so have no choice but to move that … [FTPA wording].”

    (If I am just wasting your time by revealing how slight is my knowledge of the more arcane technicalities of HoC procedure, and how foolish is applying ‘common sense’ to it, by all means say. 🙂 I recall John Major forcing through our being subject to the Maastricht treaty by making it a no-confidence vote, but as usual the methods that brought is into closer union with the EU seem unavailable to reverse this. 🙂 )

  21. Is Boris friendly enough with any EU leader and/or does any EU leader have their own agenda that would lead to certainty of the extension being vetoed

    Well, since we’ve already talked about the ridiculous (but possible) situation of the HM Gov forcing a confidence vote on itself, the UK still has a veto in the EU, isn’t it at least possible for Boris to ask for an extension (explaining that he is under duress to do so) and then use the UK’s veto to block the granting of that same extension?

    @Niall – I think the questions you’re asking are perfectly valid, but because of the “turd in the waterpipe” of FTPA, I’m not sure anyone can really give you a clear answer. This is why it has to be repealed as a matter of urgency.

  22. Niall,

    The Major situation was under the ‘old’ rules, where, I believe, he simply termed that vote to be a confidence issue and he could have called a General Election under the Prerogative Power at Common Law without further ado. Now that power has been removed and an ‘early’ GE outside the 5-year term can only be called in the two circumstances set out in the FTPA 2011, either (i) 2/3rds of the entire cohort of the House of Commons vote for it, i.e. 2/3 x 650 or 417 rounded up, or a vote of no confidence is passed by a simple majority of those voting on the statutory wording and then after 14 days the statutory counter-motion is passed again by a simple majority.

    So the preamble to the vote is pure political theatre. Perhaps his plan is to call a confidence vote and contrive to lose it, get his GE and if he wins, with a manifesto promise to reverse the Benn ‘Bill by then an Act’ and se the Parliament Act 1911 to ram that through Parliament in a day.

  23. JG,

    The UK has no veto on the extension to the Article 50 period, only the non-departing states. So plan A, be nice to Mr Orban, Plan B tell Portugal it’s a Treaty of Windsor matter, and offer them half a billion quid for each month we save.

    Article 50 (4)
    2. A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention. In the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council, the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union. That agreement shall be negotiated in accordance with Article 218(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. It shall be concluded on behalf of the Union by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament.

    3. The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.

    4. For the purposes of paragraphs 2 and 3, the member of the European Council or of the Council representing the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in the discussions of the European Council or Council or in decisions concerning i

  24. @Mr. Ed – Shame. Then again, understandable that you wouldn’t want an exiting member to be able to veto it’s own punishment.

  25. Perhaps his plan is to call a confidence vote and contrive to lose it, get his GE and if he wins, with a manifesto promise to reverse the Benn ‘Bill by then an Act’ and se the Parliament Act 1911 to ram that through Parliament in a day. (Mr Ed, 7th September 2019 at 6:52 am)

    That is one strategy. Is the following another?

    The bill specifically says that if there is a parliamentary vote for a deal, or a parliamentary vote for no deal, before the 19th then the letter need not be sent.

    Suppose the Queen’s speech on the 14th notes the failure of negotiations and states an intent to leave the EU with no deal.

    – If it is not voted down then (whether or not Bercow claims otherwise on technicalities) Boris can assert that he need not send the letter between the 19th and the 31st (8 parliamentary working days later), when our departing the EU makes the bill irrelevant.

    – If it is voted down, Boris (again ignoring whatever Bercow says) gives her majesty the well-precedented advice that defeat of the Queen’s speech is a vote of no confidence, and she dissolves parliament, i.e. before the 19th.

    In either case, further issues arise, but in the first parliament has only 8 days to find another way of preventing our leaving the EU, while in the second an electoral win solves all and an electoral defeat loses all so the various things Boris could do or not do, and his various ways of escape from the latter, would affect only the further struggles of a hung parliament outcome.

    Just my 0.02p FWIW.

  26. Niall,

    Legally, voting down the Queen’s Speech will not trigger a general election, only 2 methods will, the 2/3 vote of 650 MPs, or a confidence vote failing twice in 14 days, nothing else will, by law. If all sitting MPs applied for the Stewardships of either the Manor of Northstead or the Chiltern Hundreds (notional offices of profit under the Crown), there would be 650 by-elections replicating a GE to replace the disqualified MPs, and a very busy Chancellor of the Exchequer making those appointments.

    Politically, losing a vote on the Queen’s Speech would trigger either of the 2 methods above, which, if they failed, would leave a Zombie government unable to pass laws without the Opposition and unable to leave office.

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