Anti-Brexit Tory Tries to Stop Next PM Suspending Parliament

Kitty Donaldson and Robert Hutton
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Corbyn Plan to Become U.K.’s Caretaker Prime Minister Falls Flat

(Bloomberg) -- U.K. Conservatives working to prevent a chaotic Brexit have proposed legislation to stop the next prime minister suspending Parliament to force a no-deal break from the European Union.

Dominic Grieve, a former attorney general and veteran anti-Brexit rebel, proposed an amendment that would require Parliament to be in session on Sept. 4, Oct. 9 and then every two weeks until Dec. 18 -- effectively making it impossible for Theresa May’s successor to suspend the legislature to try to bypass lawmakers ahead of the Oct. 31 Brexit deadline.

It would also allow MPs to seize control of the Parliamentary agenda. If the speaker selects the amendment -- which is unpredictable -- it would go to a vote on Tuesday.

Boris Johnson, the front-runner in the Tory leadership contest, has vowed to take Britain out of the bloc “do or die” by the end of October, even if he hasn’t secured a divorce agreement to smooth the process. He has said he doesn’t want to suspend Parliament to push through a hard break, but has declined to rule out using the radical and controversial measure.

Fearing the economic chaos that would follow a no-deal divorce, about 30 Conservative members of Parliament are trying to figure out how to use the tools of Parliament to prevent it. Whether they can succeed is the most pressing question now facing investors, businesses and citizens.

Grieve is using the Northern Ireland Bill as a vehicle for his latest bid to stop a chaotic divorce.

Speaking on BBC radio Tuesday, Grieve said it was difficult to estimate how much support he has, but that several Conservative lawmakers had signed his amendment.

“People are going to have to make up their mind if they’re prepared to make a stand,” he said. “The advantage of doing something now is that it’s much less likely one has to do something more drastic later on.”

That’s a reference to the last-resort option MPs will have to block a no-deal -- by bringing down the government in a no-confidence vote. Many Tories are reluctant to contemplate that as it could put the socialist Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in office.

There is no guarantee Grieve’s amendment will be selected by Speaker of the Commons John Bercow when Parliament debates the bill Tuesday. Grieve’s last attempt to block a no-deal Brexit -- by cutting off spending to government departments -- was thwarted when Bercow didn’t include his plan for a vote.

The Times reported that Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond -- a fierce opponent of a no-deal Brexit -- had urged May to allow Conservative MPs to support efforts to stop Parliament from being suspended. It said he’d suggested that in return he’d agree to release money for education funding, something it said May wants for her legacy.

(Updates with Grieve comments from seventh paragraph.)

--With assistance from Joe Mayes.

To contact the reporters on this story: Kitty Donaldson in London at kdonaldson1@bloomberg.net;Robert Hutton in London at rhutton1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net;Emma Ross-Thomas at erossthomas@bloomberg.net

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