brexit chaos
October 21, 2019

The Brexit clock is ticking for U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and he just hit another momentary snag.

With 10 days remaining until the Oct. 31 deadline, House of Commons Speaker John Bercow denied Johnson's attempt to put the Brexit deal he brokered with the European Union up for a "meaningful vote" Monday. Bercow said the motion was the same as the one that was debated Saturday before Parliament passed an amendment requiring Johnson to ask for an extension from the EU before voting on his deal, which he did begrudgingly.

Bercow said debating the motion again would "be repetitive and disorderly," citing a parliamentary rule from 1604 which prohibits the government from repeatedly asking Parliament to vote on the exact same motion. The speaker did say he was not preventing a vote on Johnson's legislation at a later date, but added that MPs must see the legislation, which is being introduced for a first reading Monday, first. Once they've gone through that, MPs will vote on whether to back it tomorrow.

Bercow received some pushback for his decision from Conservatives, and a spokesperson for Johnson said the government was "disappointed," but several other MPs respected the conclusion. Read more at The Financial Times and The Guardian. Tim O'Donnell

October 19, 2019

Oh, so close.

It looks like the Brexit deal U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson brokered with the European Union on Thursday won't get through British Parliament on Saturday, as Johnson had hoped, adding to a growing list of defeats in his short tenure.

U.K. Parliament passed an amendment during its first Saturday session in 37 years that requires Johnson to request a Brexit delay from the European Union by 11 p.m. Saturday. The vote was tight, but ultimately a cross-party group backed the amendment by a count of 322-306. It does not necessarily mean that the MPs were opposed to Johnson's deal — instead it signals they are withholding their support. Oliver Letwin, the MP who led the charge for the amendment, said he was leaning toward backing Johnson's deal, but he prioritized keeping the insurance policy of an extension in place to prevent the U.K. from crashing out of the EU on Oct. 31 without a deal, should Parliament have blocked it.

The government was clear that, after being defeated in the amendment vote, it would abandon a follow-up vote on the deal, as the amendment rendered it "meaningless." It appeared Johnson was close to receiving the votes he needed to pass the deal, and he said he would move forward with Brexit legislation next week, though he insisted he will not negotiate a delay with the EU in the meantime. Read more at BBC and The Guardian. Tim O'Donnell

October 15, 2019

A Brexit deal, in which Northern Ireland would "de jure be in the U.K.'s customs territory but de facto in the European Union's," is in the works The Guardian reports,

A draft text of the agreement — which allegedly includes a customs border in the Irish sea — could reportedly be published as early as Wednesday if Downing Street signs off on the concessions, sources told The Guardian. Even if that does happen, Prime Minister Boris Johnson will still have to usher the agreement through British Parliament, which was a difficult task for his predecessor, Theresa May. But there has not yet been any public criticism from Brexit hardliners.

In fact, Steve Baker, the leader of the pro-Brexit European Research Group, said he emerged from a Downing Street meeting "optimistic that it is possible to reach a tolerable deal that I am able to vote for." Johnson's ally and the leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, said he believes Johnson has the numbers he needs in Parliament, though Northern Ireland's conservative Democratic Unionist Party could still be a tough get. Meanwhile, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, though more cautious, told reporters that "initial indications are that we are making progress, that the negotiations are moving in the right direction."

Still, there's some nervousness among EU nations that negotiations are being rushed ahead of the Oct. 31 deadline, The Guardian reports. It's time to wait and see. Read more at The Guardian. Tim O'Donnell

October 7, 2019

It was no secret that the European Union wasn't prepared to accept U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson's latest Brexit proposal, but The Guardian obtained leaked documents with the EU's point-by-point reasoning for its rejection.

Johnson's plan included Northern Ireland remaining in an all-Ireland regulatory zone within the EU's single market for goods and electricity, but with a catch that the EU reportedly couldn't come to terms with. Northern Ireland's parliament would hang on to veto powers to block the arrangement every four years, which was cause for concern for the EU.

Beyond that, The Guardian reports that the EU believes Johnson's plan could eventually result in abuses within the trading market. For example, they argue Johnson and his team provided no details about how to combat smuggling and that they removed assurances made by previous Prime Minister Theresa May that Northern Ireland would not enjoy a competitive advantage when it comes to trade. The EU also noted that the U.K. would have access to EU databases which would allow it to police the Irish customs border and the U.K.-Northern Ireland regulatory border even if the proposal was vetoed.

EU sources denied that Brussels would present a counteroffer to Downing Street. "It is the U.K. that wants to replace the backstop — and that is our solution," one senior EU diplomat said. Read more at The Guardian. Tim O'Donnell

September 24, 2019

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson unsurprisingly said Tuesday he does not agree with the British Supreme Court's ruling that his suspension of Parliament was unlawful. But, speaking to reporters in New York at the United Nations General Assembly, Johnson said he would "obviously" respect the verdict.

He added that the ruling will make getting a Brexit deal done with the European Union ahead of the October 31st more difficult, but "we'll get on."

The Guardian notes that the ruling doesn't prevent Johnson from trying to suspend Parliament again, though a suspension could reportedly only last a few days if he made another attempt. Johnson said he thinks there's still a good case for a Queen's speech — which is always preceded by a prorogration of Parliament — despite the ruling.

While some MPs have called for Johnson's resignation, his comments would indicate that's not something he's considering at the moment, and a Downing street source confirmed he won't be stepping down. Instead, Johnson will reportedly leave New York earlier than expected Tuesday evening, so he can return to London. Tim O'Donnell

September 16, 2019

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was greeted by the sound of protesters booing him when he arrived in Luxembourg on Monday, and the reception he received from the country's top leaders wasn't much friendlier.

Johnson was in Luxembourg for his first face-to-face meeting with European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker, The Associated Press reports. With Britain scheduled to leave the European Union on Oct. 31, the two are trying to come up with a divorce agreement, but the European Commission said in a statement the meeting ended with no plan in place. Johnson has not offered any "legally operational" solutions to the so-called "backstop," which would guarantee that goods and people are able to freely cross the border between EU member Ireland and the U.K.'s Northern Ireland.

Johnson was scheduled to attend a news conference with Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, but refused to attend due to the rowdy anti-Brexit protesters. Bettel met with him privately, and said Johnson needs to "stop speaking and act," adding, "You can't hold their future hostage for party political gains." A no-deal Brexit could have catastrophic economic repercussions, but Johnson is adamant that Britain will leave the EU by Halloween, with or without a deal.

An EU summit will be held in mid-October, and hopes are high that a deal will be reached then. Johnson suspended Parliament until Oct. 14, in order to give himself distance from lawmakers who are trying to block a no-deal Brexit, and on Tuesday, Britain's Supreme Court will mull whether that decision was lawful. Catherine Garcia

September 11, 2019

Things just keep getting worse for U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

After having already lost his first six parliamentary votes, he faced another defeat Wednesday, this time in the judiciary realm. Senior Scottish judges unanimously ruled that Johnson's suspension of Parliament earlier this month was unlawful on the basis that he misled Queen Elizabeth II, David Allen Green reports for The Financial Times. Green adds that the ruling that Johnson acted in "bad faith" was a "remarkable and unprecedented judgment" — indeed, this is reportedly the first time a court has found a prime minister to have misled the British Crown.

The Scottish court's decision differs from a previous one made by the High Court in London, which ruled that it could not review the legality of the suspension since it was a political matter. But Scotland has its own system of laws, and Green notes that Scottish judges have a lot more leeway when it comes to parliamentary prorogation. The U.K.'s Supreme Court will convene next week in London to hear appeals from both the Scottish and High court cases in an attempt to create one, overarching decision. Read more from David Allen Green at The Financial Times and on Twitter. Tim O'Donnell

September 11, 2019

A Scottish appeals court, the Court of Sessions, ruled Thursday that Prime Minister Boris Johnson violated Britain's constitution when he prorogued, or suspended, Parliament until Oct. 14. The three-judge panel, led by Lord Carloway, Scotland's senior-most judge, overturns a lower court ruling that courts can't interfere with political decision by the prime minister. But the appellate court did not immediately overturn Johnson's order, allowing the U.K. Supreme Court to make the final decision in an emergency session called for Sept. 17. It did, however, inject more chaos into an already madcap Brexit fight.

The Scottish judges, siding with 75 opposition members of Parliament and peers, ruled that Johnson's decision to prorogue Parliament violated the constitution because it sought to quash debate in the run-up to the Oct. 31 deadline for Britain to seal a divorce deal with the European Union. Parliament's suspension took effect early Tuesday, after lawmakers had passed a law requiring Johnson to seek an extension of the Oct. 31 deadline if no EU exit deal was in place. A court in England sided with Johnson, and the Supreme Court will weigh both rulings as well as a third case out of Northern Ireland.

"I have never been able to contemplate the possibility that the law could be that our sovereign Parliament might be treated as an inconvenience by the prime minister," said Jolyon Maugham, an attorney who filed the Scottish case. "I am pleased that Scotland's highest court agrees." Peter Weber

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