Tuesday 3 September 2019 10:48 am

Brexit showdown: What to expect when you're expecting (a General Election)...

MPs return to parliament today for what is expected to be the start of a seismic couple of days in the Brexit debate.

But what is actually going to happen? And will you have time to break away from the TV?

Here’s everything you can expect to unfold in Westminster today…

Read more: Putney MP Justine Greening to stand down at next election

What is actually going to happen today?


It looks likely to be a fairly gruelling day – but things won’t really get started for a few hours.

2.30pm: Commons opens for business

Commons kicks off at 2:30pm with an hour of Foreign Office questions, Dominic Raab’s first return to the dispatch box since his time at DexEU. That preamble will then lead to Liberal Democrat – and, critically, pro-Remain – MP Jane Dodds being sworn in before the Prime Minister takes to the floor.

3.30pm: Boris Johnson statement

Boris Johnson is due to update the House on the G7 summit, however it’s likely that speaker John Bercow will allow points of order and other interruptions to make the point that MPs are Not Happy about the PM’s unorthodox manoeuvres thus far.

Johnson is likely to say that the UK will be held back if MPs support a call for a “pointless delay” to Brexit, according to reports.

Meanwhile The Sun reported that the Prime Minister has pleaded with 15 MPs to support him in tonight’s crucial vote.

He allegedly told those rebels – who include former chancellor Philip Hammond – that “you are handing power over to a junta that includes Jeremy Corbyn”.


Hammond reportedly replied: “This is my party, I’ve been a member of this party for 45 years.

“I am going to defend my party against incomers, entryists trying to turn it into a narrow faction.

“Now is the time where we have to put the national interests ahead of threats to us personally and our careers.

“There will be enough people to get this over the line today.”

4.30pm: No-deal Brexit planning

After a couple of hours’ debate, Michael Gove will update the House about no-deal Brexit planning, which means more debate.

7pm: Rebel alliance’s no-deal Brexit emergency debate

All this is the prelude to the main event, when a member of the rebel alliance submits their application for an emergency debate on a no-deal.

So far things have been kept hush-hush but it is expected to involve a vote to temporarily change the rules of the House of Commons, allowing backbenchers to take control of the order paper tomorrow.

It's a Brexit showdown in parliament today
Hilary Benn wants to force Boris Johnson to extend the Brexit deadline past 31 October (Getty)

This will come down to Bercow – but given his anger at the way Johnson prorogued parliament while he was on holiday, he is very likely to back the rebels.

The debate is then expected to start from 7pm, with shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer likely to lead from the opposition benches.

9pm: Possible confidence vote in Boris Johnson’s government

A vote could happen between 9pm and 10pm, and it is then we will see if the rebels have the numbers to defeat the government.

What are the Brexit rebels actually trying to do?

This vote, although critical, is not in and of itself going to resolve anything. If the rebels can get enough numbers, they will secure time on the order paper tomorrow for MPs to put forward their new bill designed to block a no-deal Brexit.

The new law would force Johnson to request a three-month extension to Article 50, pushing Brexit back to 31 January 2020, if parliament has not approved a deal (or a no-deal) by 19 October.

Under the terms of the bill, Prime Minister Boris Johnson must accept a different Brexit extension date automatically if the EU suggests one. The only way that wouldn’t happen would be if the Commons moves to block the plan within two days.

That piece of legislation – called the Benn-Burt bill as it’s presented by Hilary Benn and Alistair Burt – will require further debate and votes both in the Commons and the Lords. However it is hoped that its simplicity – it is just two pages long – will ensure a speedy passage.

Will the rebel alliance defeat the government?

That is the big question. Certainly former chancellor Philip Hammond is confident they have the numbers. And if they get the votes today, the chances are they will tomorrow.

The Prime Minister has a majority of just one. But of course, traditional party lines – and therefore parliamentary arithmetic – have shifted.

Several MPs have said they will not stand at the next election, meaning they can vote with their conscience rather than their party whip. But that works both ways – Kate Hoey, for example, is a prominent ‘Lexiter’.

Kate Hoey is a Labour MP but may vote with Brexiters give her personal stance on the issue (Getty)
Kate Hoey is a Labour MP but may vote with Brexiters give her personal stance on the issue (Getty)

There will be some MPs who fear having the whip withdrawn. There will be others who are concerned about triggering a General Election.

But this fundamentally comes down to whether or not MPs can back a no-deal Brexit, and despite Johnson’s assurances that talks are progressing, there are many more sources suggesting not only that no progress has been made, but that substantive talks haven’t even re-opened.

So… are we heading for a General Election then?

Even that isn’t certain, despite the crash in sterling today as traders fear exactly that.

Read more: Sterling plummets to 34-year low as General Election risk looms

Labour started out being pretty bullish, with Jeremy Corbyn telling Salford yesterday he was ready.

Overnight they seemed to have changed position, with frontbenchers saying they would never willingly vote for Johnson’s “trick”, amid fears the Prime Minister may shift the election date back past the Halloween deadline once MPs have voted for it.

Boris Johnson has said he does not want to call a snap general election, but will if rebels win a vote against him today (Getty)

Sigh. When can we stop talking about a ‘deal or no-deal Brexit’?

Never. Well, maybe at some point. But not today. Certainly not this week. And depending on how things pan out, not for many more weeks to come. But you knew that already, right?

Main image: Getty

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