U.K. Needs U.S.-Style Constitution, Says Bercow: Brexit Update

Thomas Penny, Alex Morales and Marton Eder

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Boris Johnson denied lying to the Queen over his suspension of Parliament after it was ruled unlawful by a Scottish court, just one of a series of recent political and legal setbacks to his “do or die” plan to leave the European Union on Oct. 31. EU negotiator Michel Barnier also warned there would be no point reopening formal talks, it was reported.

But there was some respite from Belfast, where a court ruled on Thursday that leaving the EU without a divorce agreement, which Johnson has not ruled out doing, wouldn’t violate the peace accord in Northern Ireland. In Hungary, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto urged the bloc to take Johnson more seriously.

Key Developments:

Johnson denied lying to the Queen over Parliament suspensionA Belfast court ruled that a no-deal Brexit would not break the Good Friday peace accordGovernment published no-deal Brexit planning documents late Wednesday ahead of Parliament-imposed deadline: U.K. Warns of Protests, Chaotic Border Scenes in No-Deal BrexitDefence Secretary Ben Wallace said the government is working to mitigate no-deal Brexit risksHungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto told Bloomberg he wants the EU to take Johnson more seriously

Speaker Bercow Calls for U.K. Constitution (20:22 p.m)

John Bercow, who has been a thorn in the side of the government as Speaker of the House of Commons, suggested he would allow MPs to use parliamentary proceedings to ensure Prime Minister Boris Johnson upholds the anti-no deal law passed last week by MPs.

Speaking publicly for the first time since announcing he’d step down Oct. 31, Bercow also said the U.K. might need a U.S.-style constitution to prevent future governments seeking to override laws passed by Parliament.

A “Parliamentary Powers Act might be introduced to entrench the authority of the House of Commons and ensure that the rule of law is never distorted or perverted by executive malpractice,” he said at the annual Bingham Lecture.

Barnier Says no Grounds to Restart Talks (4:50 p.m.)

The European Commission’s Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, told Members of the European Parliament that there are insufficient grounds for reopening official negotiations, the Guardian reported.

Barnier told leaders of the Parliament that Johnson hasn’t yet offered any legally and credible proposals for alternatives to the Northern Ireland backstop, the newspaper cited him as saying in a private briefing.

Another Day, Another Court Challenge (4 p.m.)

The legal challenges to Johnson are piling up. After the Scottish Court of Sessions ruled on Wednesday that his suspension of Parliament is unlawful, the prime minister faces a new challenge in the same court.

Ecotricity Group Ltd. founder Dale Vince – a donor to the opposition Labour Party – is filing papers seeking an immediate order that the premier should comply with the law passed last week by Parliament, compelling him to seek a Brexit delay if he hasn’t secured a deal by Oct. 19.

Vince has teamed up with Jolyon Maugham, the lawyer who spearheaded Wednesday’s case, and has been a legal thorn in the government’s side throughout the Brexit process. If the injunction is granted, and Johnson doesn’t write the letter seeking to extend negotiations, Vince said he’ll ask the court to sign and send the letter to the EU itself.

Letwin: MPs Want Brexit Resolved Before Election (3:45 p.m.)

In an interview with the Evening Standard, Oliver Letwin -- who was expelled from the parliamentary Conservative Party for rebelling over a no-deal Brexit -- said the majority of MPs want Brexit resolved before a general election, even if it means calling a referendum.

“That means either you get a deal and get it in place, which is relatively quick, or you have a deal followed by a referendum, which is relatively long,” Letwin said. “Elections are decided on the basis of all sorts of concerns that people have about whom they want to have govern them. The Brexit issue is a different kind of issue.”

Hungary Urges EU to Take Johnson Seriously (1 p.m.)

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said the European Union must take Boris Johnson seriously, telling Bloomberg several key member states want Brexit “to end, one way or another.” He left the door open to potentially vetoing any U.K. request for an extension.

“We don’t want the EU institutions to approach this question in a condescending way, but as a fair negotiating partner,” Szijjarto said in an interview. “If the British decided that they want to leave, then the result should be the closest co-operation when they do so.”

The possibility of Hungary choosing to veto an extension has been mooted since Parliament voted last week to force Johnson to apply to the EU for a delay until Jan. 31 if he is unable to secure a new divorce deal by Oct. 19. A veto from an EU nation could allow him to comply with the new law, while also ensuring the U.K. leaves the EU on Oct. 31 as he has promised.

“If there is such a request, we’ll make our own decision,” Szijjarto said. “A few large Western European member states really want to put an end to this, and want it to be decided one way or another,” he added, “so probably it won’t be our decision that will be key.”

Significant Gaps Remain on Brexit, Ireland Says (12:30 p.m.)

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said the European Union would react positively to a change to the U.K.’s approach on Brexit as “significant gaps” remain between the two sides.

“I think the EU will respond positively if it’s realistic, to try and find a middle ground position that can work for the U.K., but certainly meets the reasonable and honest demands of the EU and of Ireland,” Coveney told reporters in Cork on Thursday.

Johnson ‘Hopeful’ of Deal With EU (11:20 a.m.)

In his TV interview, Boris Johnson said he’s “very hopeful” of securing a deal with his European counterparts at an Oct. 17-18 summit in Brussels and that he’s “working very hard” to secure one.

“We can see the rough area of landing space of how you could do it,” Johnson said. “It will be tough, it will be hard, but I think we can get there.”

Crucially, Johnson said, if the U.K. can’t secure a deal, then “we will be ready to come out on Oct. 31, deal or no deal.”

Johnson Wins in Belfast Court (11:15 a.m.)

A Northern Irish court ruled that a no-deal Brexit wouldn’t violate the Good Friday peace accord, handing Johnson a legal victory in one of a string of cases related to his plans to leave the European Union.

Judge Bernard McCloskey issued a ruling Thursday in Belfast. The case is set to be immediately appealed to a higher court in Northern Ireland before moving to the U.K. Supreme Court next week.

Johnson Denies Lying to Queen (11:10 a.m.)

Boris Johnson said he “absolutely” didn’t lie to the Queen when he asked her to suspend or prorogue Parliament, because the government needs a new session to put forward its agenda.

“There’s a huge number of things that we want to get on with and do,” Johnson said in pooled television interview. “We need a Queen’s speech, we need to get on with these.”

Commenting on the release of the Operation Yellowhammer document setting out projected outcomes of a no-deal Brexit, he stressed it’s “a worst-case scenario.”

The document was “written by planners to make sure that we do everything we need to do to make sure that doesn’t happen,” he said. “If we have to come out on Oct. 31 with no deal, we will be ready. The ports will be ready and the farming communities will be ready.”

EU Parliament Open to N. Ireland-Only Backstop (10:30 a.m.)

The European Parliament has signaled the European Union’s willingness to change the contentious Irish border backstop in the Brexit deal to make it apply solely to Northern Ireland rather than the whole U.K.

According to the text of a resolution that EU lawmakers will vote on next week seen by Bloomberg, the parliament “expresses its readiness to revert to a Northern Ireland-only backstop but stresses that it will not give consent to a withdrawal agreement without a backstop.”

While the parliament doesn’t have any formal role in the negotiations with the U.K., it does have a full veto over the final deal. In the resolution, it says it won’t hold a vote until after the U.K. Parliament has approved the agreement.

The EU has, in recent days, signaled that British negotiators seem to be moving toward accepting a Northern Ireland-only backstop. This would keep the province aligned to the EU’s customs union and single-market rules to prevent a hard border with the Irish Republic. In the current deal, rejected three times by British MPs, the whole U.K. would remain in a customs union.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday denied he was ready to accept a Northern Ireland-only backstop, saying it wouldn’t work for the U.K.

Rudd Wants All 21 Tory Rebels Readmitted (8:50 a.m.)

Former Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd, who quit Johnson’s government and the Parliamentary Conservative Party at the weekend, said she would wait to see how the 21 Tory MPs expelled from the party last week are treated before deciding if she would rejoin.

Rudd was responding to reports that some of the rebels have been offered a way back into the party. She said she’d been struck at the effective organization of the group of MPs, who were expelled for voting for legislation to block a no-deal Brexit, and said they should all be allowed back.

“The group needs to be considered as a whole to be brought back,” she told BBC Radio. “I will wait and see on what terms other people choose to stay out.”

Rudd described the expulsion of the lawmakers as an “act of political vandalism” in her resignation letter and said on Thursday that their vote against the government was no more “egregious” than the repeated votes of hard-line Brexiteers against Theresa May’s Brexit agreement.

Wallace: Yellowhammer is a ‘Living Document’ (8:20 a.m.)

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the government is working to mitigate the risks exposed in the Yellowhammer planning document released on Wednesday, and will publish an updated version showing progress soon.

“We’re spending the money on doing lots of things to mitigate those assumptions,” Wallace told BBC Radio 4. “We should consider it as ‘this is what would happen if we didn’t do anything about it.”’

Describing it as a “living document,” he said there would be further versions. “Our job as a government is to say to people what could happen and then say what we’re doing about it,” he said.

Labour: Yellowhammer Shows ‘Catastrophe’ for U.K. (Earlier)

Andy McDonald, transport spokesman for the opposition Labour Party, said the government’s Yellowhammer planning documents show that a no-deal split from the EU would be “a catastrophe for our country.”

“This is more like emergency planning for a war or a natural disaster,” McDonald told BBC Radio 4 on Thursday. Boris Johnson is “driving the ship onto the rocks,” he said, “and he’ll have a lifeboat but working people will not.”

People on low incomes would be “disproportionately affected” by higher food and fuel prices after a no-deal Brexit, the government warned in the paper.

Grieve: Court Will Tell More on Parliament Suspension (Earlier)

Former Attorney General Dominic Grieve, who led Parliament’s efforts to force the government to publish its decision-making process behind Boris Johnson‘s suspension of Parliament, expects more details to be revealed when the Court of Session in Scotland publishes its full judgment on Friday.

The court ruled on Wednesday that Johnson had acted unlawfully when he advised the Queen to prorogue Parliament.

No-Deal Brexit minister Michael Gove refused to release documents relating to the decision on Wednesday evening. Publishing communications between Johnson’s advisers would be “unreasonable and disproportionate,” he said in a letter to Grieve.

“The government’s reasons for proroguing Parliament have turned out to be entirely bogus,” Grieve told BBC Radio 4. “It’s very serious when a government comes out and deliberately sets out to mislead the public about its motives.”

Earlier:

U.K. Warns of Protests, Chaotic Border Scenes in No-Deal BrexitBrexit Is Making English Civil War Comparisons Hard to DismissU.K.’s Leadsom to Meet Businesses to Assess Brexit PreparednessYellowhammer Details Reveal Worst-Case Scenario: Brexit Bulletin

--With assistance from Ian Wishart, Zoltan Simon, Peter Flanagan and Dara Doyle.

To contact the reporters on this story: Thomas Penny in London at tpenny@bloomberg.net;Alex Morales in London at amorales2@bloomberg.net;Marton Eder in Budapest at meder4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Stuart Biggs, Thomas Penny

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