Can Boris Still Ensure Britain Leaves The EU on October 31st?
Britain’s Supreme Court has ruled that Boris Johnson’s advice to the Queen to prorogue Parliament until October 14th was ‘unlawful, void and of no effect.’ Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn then demanded that the Prime Minister resign. However, at the UN General Assembly in New York, he soldiered on and suggested he might try to suspend Parliament for a second time, thereby disagreeing with the Court’s decision. With the establishment against him, the chances of delivering Brexit by October 31st are becoming increasingly slim.
Attorney General Geoffrey Cox announced on Wednesday afternoon that the Government will seek approval from MPs for an early election. If the Conservatives win a majority, this will provide them with a mandate to ensure that no-deal is kept on the table during the ongoing EU negotiations. But Sky News political correspondent Lewis Goodall tweeted that the opposition will resist one until the Benn Act, which requires the Prime Minister to seek an extension to Britain’s EU withdrawal date and prevent no-deal, has been amended.
If an election is called, the Tories must seek a mandate to overturn the Benn Act. This will present the electorate with a clear choice between leaving the EU altogether under Boris’s Conservative Party, Labour’s muddled policy of retaining the UK’s Single Market and Customs Union membership, and the Liberal Democrats who intend to reverse Brexit altogether. Regardless, there is one party that could cost the Tories a majority at the next election; the Brexit Party. The only way for the Tory leader to gain a majority is through a pact between both parties.
Nigel Farage impressed many political pundits by quickly mobilising a political party in the space of six weeks and then winning this year’s European election. Videos his party have shared on social media prove that they are gearing for an election. If the Conservatives are returned to Parliament without a majority and have to depend upon the DUP for survival again, the opposition can then argue like it did after the 2017 election that the Government does not possess a majority to legislate a no-deal Brexit. Westminster will witness a repeat of the events that have continually delayed Britain’s EU exit. Therefore, Boris might have no choice but to ensure the UK leaves the EU via a heavily-amended version of Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement (WA).
Certain elements of the WA do help deliver Brexit. It ends the Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy as well as the free movement of people. Yet it also provides the EU with a veto over when Britain leaves the bloc. The WA ensures this country must remain part of ‘a customs union’, it provides the European Court of Justice with an element of jurisdiction over this nation, and it retains the Irish backstop that separates Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK. If Boris wants to make May’s deal a reality, he needs to remove these aspects of her document. It is unclear how likely Brussels is to agree to this.
The Daily Express reports that at the upcoming European Council meeting on October 17th, French President Emmanuel Macron is likely to reject another Brexit extension. With little time and no majority to amend the WA, plus a possible election, the UK’s best chance of leaving the EU could lie with the French. But this is just speculation for now.
Boris is right to remain optimistic. Despite all the attempts to thwart leaving the EU, he still has a couple of realistic options left to ensure this country leaves on October 31st. The next month will determine the fate of British politics for generations to come.