MPs trying to use parliamentary votes to stop a no-deal Brexit have not had much luck recently. Last month the government comfortably defeated a Labour attempt to allow backbenchers to take control of the Commons timetable which, if passed, might have allowed a bill opposing no-deal to be passed. Last week the Speaker refused to call a Dominic Grieve amendment that would definitely prevented the next prime minister proroguing parliament in the autumn to facilitate a no-deal Brexit. Grieve also lost votes on two other related amendments. But he did win a vote on a move saying the government would have to publish fortnightly reports in the autumn on progress towards restoring the power-sharing executive in Northern Ireland. He acknowledged that this on its own would not necessarily stop an autumn prorogation, but he said he hoped peers would beef it up in the Lords. But even this relatively anaemic amendment only passed by one vote, and that was just because a government whip, Jo Churchill, forgot to cast her vote.
Last night the House of Lords did beef up the original Grieve proposal, by passing an amendment saying there would have to be debates on those fortnightly reports mandated by Grieve. Whether this would stop a new PM proroguing parliament is a matter of debate, but at the very least it would provide stronger legal grounds for a court challenge against a decision to prorogue.
Today the government will try to reverse that decision in the Commons. At one level it is just a dispute about a narrow procedural amendment, but of course this has become a contest about whether or not parliament should be willing to contemplate a no-deal Brexit.
Based on how MPs voted last week, the government should have a decent chance of winning. But last night Newsnight’s Nicholas Watt reported that some pro-European cabinet ministers were considering resigning so that they could vote against the government.
And this morning David Gauke, the justice secretary, refused to rule out rebelling over this issue. He did not say he definitely would resign (and on many occasions pro-Europeans ministers have threatened to quit over Brexit only to back down at the last minute). But instead of just saying that he would support the government, he told the Today programme that he had not yet made up his mind. This is what he said when asked how he would vote:
I will have to see what the precise amendments are and we’re hearing what the whipping will be and the arguments for that so I’m not in a position to necessarily say.
But what I would say is the idea that parliament should be suspended in October – a period where it always sits, parliament has always in recent years sat at that time of year – at a crucial point in this country’s history, if you like, that parliament should not be able to sit, should not be able to express its opinion and its will, I think would be outrageous.
I very much doubt that any prime minister would in fact suspend parliament in these circumstances but I can understand the concerns that a lot of my colleagues have.
Gauke, of course, expects to be sacked by the new prime minister (almost certainly Boris Johnson) next week. So he does not really have much to lose.
I will be covering the debate in full.
Here is the agenda for the day.
9.30am: David Gauke, the justice secretary, gives a speech on sentencing.
9.30am: Crime figures for England and Wales are published.
9.30am: The Office for Budget Responsibility publishes is Fiscal Risks Report.
10am: The Alternative Arrangements Commission, an independent body set up to look for alternatives to the Northern Ireland backstop, publishes its final report.
Around 12pm: MPs debate the Northern Ireland (executive formation) bill. As Jessica Elgot reports, the government will seek to overturn a vote in the Lords adding an amendment to the bill intended to make it harder for the next PM to prorogue parliament in the autumn to facilitate a no-deal Brexit.
As usual, I will be covering breaking political news as it happens, as well as bringing you the best reaction, comment and analysis from the web. I plan to publish a summary when I wrap up.
You can read all the latest Guardian politics articles here. Here is the Politico Europe roundup of this morning’s political news. And here is the PoliticsHome list of today’s top 10 must-reads.
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