Parliament Tells Next PM It Won't Allow No-Deal: Brexit Update

Robert Hutton and Kitty Donaldson
Parliament Tells Next PM It Won't Allow No-Deal: Brexit Update

(Bloomberg) -- Parliament backed measures to prevent the next prime minister suspending the legislature to pursue a no-deal Brexit. It’s a challenge to Boris Johnson, the front-runner to become prime minister next week, as he has vowed to lead the country out of the bloc in October, with or without an agreement to smooth the process.

Key Developments:

House of Commons backs measure 315 to 274 to prevent a no-deal Brexit after House of Lords beefed up the legislation on Wednesday. MPs later backed the Lords measure by 315 to 273.Tory whips told MPs to vote against amendments that aim to prevent no-deal as they seek to contain rebellionEU’s Barnier reiterates the divorce deal can’t be changed; he’s open to redrafting the political declaration on future tiesOBR says no-deal would push economy into recession and increase debt. GDP would fall 2% by end-2020Pound climbs 0.4%

Hunt Apologizes For Missing Vote (3 p.m.)

Leadership contender Jeremy Hunt apologized to his Tory colleagues after he failed to vote on the amendment to stop the next prime minister from suspending parliament.

Hunt said he thought he had been excused from voting and emphasized his opposition to the goal of the amendment, which was backed by a majority of 41.

“Apologies to my colleagues & Whips Office,” he wrote on Twitter. “My position is that parliament should NOT restrict the hands of an incoming govt in this way and I remain opposed to how parliament voted.”

Minister Quit to Stop Parliament Being Sidelined (2:35 p.m.)

Margot James, who resigned from the government to vote to stop a no-deal Brexit, said: "It’s absolutely vital that at this late stage we do all we can to make sure that Parliament’s voice is heard in the run up to October 31."

May Not Disciplining Rebel Ministers (2:25 p.m.)

Theresa May’s office said the prime minister won’t be taking disciplinary action against ministers who didn’t vote to prevent the prorogation of Parliament. A spokesman said she is “obviously disappointed” with their decision and expected her successor -- who will be elected next week -- to take their rebellion into account when forming a new administration.

Margot James resigned as a junior minister to vote against the government.

Grieve Says Prorogation is ‘Stone Dead’ (2:20 p.m.)

Remain-supporting former Attorney General Dominic Grieve, who has championed MPs having a role in the Brexit process, said the vote spells out Parliament’s view on suspension.

“It sends a very clear signal that this house won’t accept prorogation or being marginalized in this way,” Grieve said. “It kills prorogation stone-dead.”

More Than 30 Tories Rebelled Against Government (2:05 p.m.)

The voting lists show 17 Conservatives voted against the government, including Margot James, a junior minister. But 30 Tories were recorded as absent, including Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, Justice Secretary David Gauke and International Development Secretary Rory Stewart.

Some of them will have been excused the vote because they had business elsewhere -- Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who was also absent, probably fell into this category. Normally they’re matched with opposition MPs who are also absent in a process known as “pairing.’’ But only nine Labour MPs did not vote, and one member of the Scottish National Party, so 20 of the 30 non-voting Tories were probably rebels.

MPs Back Lords Plan to Stop Prorogation (1:55 p.m.)

MPs voted 273 to 315 to accept a House of Lords amendment intended to prevent a no-deal split from the EU by stopping a future prime minister suspending Parliament.

While the earlier amendment, which won by a majority of 41, secures sitting days for Parliament, the Lords measure requires a government motion, which could be amended to allow MPs to take control of the Parliamentary agenda.

Commons Backs Measure to Stop No-Deal Brexit (1:40 p.m.)

The House of Commons voted 315 to 274 to back an amendment aimed at making it more difficult for the next prime minister – most likely Boris Johnson – to suspend Parliament so he can force through a no-deal Brexit.

The cross-party amendment, to legislation on the Northern Ireland Executive requires Parliament to meet on specific days, even if it has been suspended – or prorogued.

Barnier Says Divorce Deal Can’t be Changed (1:30 p.m.)

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier reiterated that the divorce deal can’t be changed, though he’s willing to redraft the political declaration on future ties.

The Irish backstop -- the part of the deal that both candidates to be prime minister want to rip out -- is in the divorce accord.

"This treaty as far as the divorce is concerned is the only one," he said in Riga. "We are open to work again with the new government on the scope, precisely the scope of this new partnership. It means we are ready to work on the political declaration."

What Does a Win For the Pro-EU Faction Mean? (1:15 p.m.)

Pro-EU lawmakers are trying to prevent the next prime minister suspending Parliament to push through a no-deal Brexit -- a tool Boris Johnson hasn’t ruled out using.

They’re using amendments to legislation to do so and the voting on Thursday afternoon is expected to be on a knife-edge. But even if they win, that doesn’t mean no-deal is off the table -- it just gives Parliament another chance to try to stop it.

The plan is to make it impossible for the prime minister to shut down Parliament and give the legislature more time to find a way to prevent a no-deal split. Earlier this year, MPs took control of the agenda and pushed through legislation forcing Theresa May to seek an extension to EU membership. But there’s still no guarantee that Parliament will be able to block no-deal when the time comes.

At Least One Minister Planning To Rebel (11:45 a.m.)

At least one minister opposed to a no-deal Brexit is planning to rebel against the government and abstain in a vote on amendments to the Northern Ireland Bill on Thursday afternoon.

Theresa May’s government has ordered ministers to vote against the proposed measure (see 10:20 a.m.) and would normally be expected to discipline a minister who goes against the party line.

May: No-Deal Blocking Amendment is Unhelpful (11:20 a.m.)

Theresa May’s office offered only mild criticism of the amendment to the Northern Ireland Bill that’s aimed at stopping a no-deal Brexit (see 11 a.m.) -- fueling speculation that some minister’s may take the risk of rebelling against the government in Thursday afternoon’s vote.

“We have been very clear that the purpose of the bill is to ensure the continuation of vital public services,’’ May’s spokesman James Slack told reporters in London at his regular morning briefing.

The plan to require ministers to report on progress every two weeks -- really a device to stop the government from suspending parliament -- “risks being counterproductive to the overarching aim,’’ Slack said.

Benn Amendment Selected for Vote (11 a.m.)

An amendment drafted by Labour MP Hilary Benn that aims to strengthen legislation to prevent a no-deal Brexit has been selected for a vote, according to three people familiar with the situation.

The amendment has some cross-party backing and builds on a measure to stop the next prime minister suspending Parliament to push through a no-deal Brexit.

Irish PM Says Must Avoid Hard Border (10:45 a.m.)

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said he’ll meet the new U.K. premier, and is open to considering whether Britain has any workable solutions to avoid a hardening of the Irish border after Brexit. Speaking to RTE Radio, Varadkar said that while he’s not closing the door on compromise, what’s important is the end goal of avoiding the return of checkpoints on what will be the EU’s new land frontier with the U.K.

“If there are proposals that they have that genuinely achieve the same outcome, then we have to listen to them,” he said.

MPs Seek to Force Parliament to Sit if Prorogued (10:25 a.m.)

Labour’s Hilary Benn has submitted an amendment that would require Parliament to sit even if it has been suspended -- or prorogued.

It builds on an amendment inserted by the House of Lords, and would force the government to recall Parliament if prorogued to sit on specific days.

Crucially, a number of Conservatives have added their names to Benn’s amendment, suggesting there’s appetite for rebellion. They’re all former ministers: Alistair Burt, Ed Vaizey, Justine Greening, Dominic Grieve, Sam Gyimah, Philip Lee, Oliver Letwin and Guto Bebb.

Tories Told to Vote vs Measures to Stop No-Deal (10:20 a.m.)

Conservative whips have told lawmakers they must vote against amendments that aim to prevent the next prime minister suspending Parliament to pursue a no-deal exit, according to a person familiar with the situation.

No-Deal Would Knock Britain into Recession (9:50 a.m.)

A chaotic exit from the EU would push Britain into recession, and GDP would be 2% lower by the end of 2020, according to new forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility.

A no-deal departure would increase borrowing,and hit asset prices, including a sharp decline in the pound.

The fiscal watchdog said it hadn’t used the most pessimistic of no-deal scenarios to come up with those forecasts.

“That most benign version is not the version that is being talked about by prominent Brexiteers,” Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond said. “So I greatly fear the impact on our economy and our public finances of the kind of no-deal Brexit that is realistically being discussed now.”

Parliament Wants Updated BOE Brexit Analysis (9:50 a.m.)

As the Conservative leadership candidates argue over how to handle Brexit, the Treasury Committee has asked the Bank of England to update its economic analysis of various scenarios. The original analysis was published in late 2018, and was heavily criticized by pro-Brexit lawmakers. For a reminder of those scenarios, click here.

Treasury Committee Chair Nicky Morgan said she wants Parliament to be “as informed as possible as it considers key decisions about the future of our country.”

Hunt Warns Against ‘Gung-Ho’ Brexit Approach (8:30 a.m.)

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt warned that rival Boris Johnson’s “head-strong, gung-ho” approach to Brexit risks triggering a general election before Oct. 31 if Parliament votes to take a no-deal divorce off the table.

Hunt, who said momentum is moving in his direction in the race to be Tory leader, accused the EU of not being “rational” in its approach to Brexit talks, and said they’ve treated it too much as a political issue.

Hunt, who conceded a no-deal split would have economic consequences, said that if he became prime minister, he would seek to persuade his Irish counterpart to rethink his support for the border backstop arrangement -- the measure in the Brexit deal designed to keep the border open in the event the issue is not dealt with by a future trade deal.

“The backstop isn’t going to happen, it’s failed to get through Parliament three times, it’s never going to get through Parliament -- do you want to find a solution or not,” Hunt said he would tell Leo Varadkar. “We need to find a different way to do it.”

Barnier: U.K. Would Face No-Deal ‘Consequences’ (8:10 a.m.)

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, said the U.K. would “have to face the consequences” of a no-deal split from the bloc, and said member states have “never been impressed” with British threats to leave without an agreement.

In an interview for a BBC TV documentary to be broadcast on Thursday, Barnier said the bloc is ready to discuss alternative arrangements for the Irish border -- as set out in the agreement struck by Theresa May -- but needs “time, we need certainty, we also need rationality” in the discussions. “We cannot play a game.” Technical solutions are not yet ready to deal with, for example, the issue of live animals crossing the border, he said.

He was also scathing about British politicians who talk about leaving the EU as being like quitting a golf club. “The EU is not a club, the EU is a political, economic, legal construction for 60 years,” he said. “Leaving the EU means so many consequences, human, social, legal, technical, financial, economic -- nobody should underestimate the consequences.”

Gauke Won’t Say If He’ll Back Brexit Amendment (7:15 a.m.)

Justice Secretary David Gauke said he doesn’t yet know how he will vote on an amendment intended to prevent a future prime minister from suspending Parliament to force through a no-deal Brexit.

“I’ll have to see what the precise amendments are, and we’re hearing what the whipping will be and the arguments on that, so I’m not in position to necessarily say,” Gauke, who is expected to lose his job after the new prime minister is announced next week, told BBC Radio 4. “At a crucial point in this country’s history that Parliament should not be able to sit, should not be able to express its opinion and its will, would be outrageous.”

Gauke has said he would resign if a future prime minister -- expected to be Boris Johnson -- insisted on a no-deal divorce from the EU. Johnson has refused to rule out suspending Parliament to force through such a split, which is not backed by a majority of MPs.

Gauke and Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond are shaping up to be influential and disruptive backbench rebels once there is a change of leader. There has been speculation some ministers may quit to vote against the government, and Gauke’s comments will add fuel to the theory.

Earlier:

Boris Johnson Says U.S.-U.K. Trade Deal Won’t Be Forged QuicklyPound Jolted Out of Summer Slumber as No-Deal Brexit Din GrowsBrexit Bulletin: Neutralizing the Next PM

--With assistance from Charlotte Ryan, Thomas Penny, Fergal O'Brien, Dara Doyle and Alex Morales.

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

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

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