Parliament resits amidst havoc: What next?

On Tuesday 24 September, The Supreme Court declared Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s prorogation of Parliament “unlawful”.

Lady Hale declared the suspension of Parliament as “unlawful, void and of no effect”. However, an official spokesperson for the Government added: “Based on the advice we were provided with at the time by our attorney’s, prorogation was the best course of action,” 

There seems to be a lack of certainty or clarity both in Westminster and across the UK over what will happen. MPs from constituencies in and around Edinburgh were approached to comment, in order to gain an understanding of what each party is aiming to achieve.

Upon Parliament resitting on Wednesday, many events unfolded. The Attorney General, Geoffrey Cox, claimed that “he respected the decision [of the Supreme Court]”, while simultaneously criticising MPs for being “too cowardly” to hold an election, adding: “This Parliament is dead.”

The Prime Minister’s use of Jo Cox’s murder as an “excuse to deliver Brexit” was condemned on both sides of the House. He said on Wednesday that the best way to honour Jo Cox – the MP who was murdered during the 2016 EU referendum campaign – was to “get Brexit done”.

This was followed by MPs across multiple parties criticising Johnson for both the “unlawful” result from the Supreme Court and his “inflammatory” language surrounding the murder of Jo Cox.

Speaking to The Student, Ian Murray,  Labour MP for Edinburgh South, said: “The courts have upheld British democracy and delivered an astonishing rebuke to Boris Johnson for his disgraceful behaviour, all the while Mr Johnson continues to himself rebuke the Supreme Court’s decision as ‘wrong’. The Prime Minister lied and politicised the Queen. He now has no option but to resign; It was a scandal that he suspended Parliament at the height of the biggest political crisis this country has faced since the Second World War; MPs will now be allowed to get back to work, and by working together we can solve this crisis by giving people a final say on Brexit, with the option to remain in the EU.”

Mr Murray’s opinions surrounding the Prime Minister’s resignation were not single-minded, with many on the opposition benches claiming that Mr Johnson “broke the law” and hence has no choice but to “resign with dignity”, without allowing himself to fall into a worse scenario.

This was supported by Tommy Sheppard’s (SNP MP for Edinburgh East) comments which he chose the share with The Student: “These are unprecedented times. As the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said in Holyrood yesterday – For the sake of democracy, we must not allow the abnormal and unacceptable to become normal and acceptable.  I believe that the Prime Minister should have shown some integrity and resigned. But so far he has failed to do so.”

Mr Sheppard then further elaborated by saying: “The SNP has been working with other parties to stop a no-deal Brexit and that remains our priority. We need to do this as quickly as possible, amending the current legislation if necessary, to ensure that Boris Johnson and his government cannot ignore the rule of law again. Parliament can then show its lack of confidence in the UK government and call a general election.”

Despite this, many of those within Johnson’s cabinet came to the Prime Minister’s defence, saying that: “The PM was under immense pressure” and that “Parliament was hindering progress” surrounding Brexit, hence defending his prorogation motion.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party, has “flip-flopped” with ideas as he is torn between a new election, having a permanent stance on Brexit, and a potential second referendum. While it may seem logical to hold an election in order to gain ground for the opposition, many of their factions are split over Brexit and subsequently, their voter spread seems irregular.

A recent YouGov poll for a general election indicated that the Conservative party had the support of 33 per cent of the population, with Labour and the Liberal Democrats tied on 22 per cent each, followed by the Brexit party on around 14 per cent of the vote share.

The current state of the polls will likely change the position of the two main parties, who have seen their vote share decline rapidly since the 2017 Snap Election which saw the Tories and Labour on 42.4 per cent and 40 per cent of the vote share respectively.

With just over half of the population expected to support the main two parties, a general election may lead to a coalition government or a grand coalition of all major parties.

This may be supported by Christine Jardine, Liberal Democrat MP for Edinburgh West, who, when speaking to The Student added that: “The Liberal Democrats top priority is taking no-deal off the table and we will be working with colleagues in other parties to see how to make that happen sooner. My top priority in this issue is stopping a no-deal Brexit and we will use this parliamentary time to focus on that priority.” Later adding that: “We will work with other parties to look at the options to take no-deal off the table sooner than currently set out by the Benn Act and will look at all possible options to do that. We cannot afford to wait two weeks to see if the Prime Minister is going to break the law again, so we will continue to work with other parties.”

This could create an uphill struggle for Mr Johnson who recently lost his working majority in the House of Commons and may be forced to rely on cross-party support in order to pass any new legislation in the Government’s interest.

Mr Corbyn has been facing a somewhat lack of support from his own party as they are split over how Brexit should be handled.

However, Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the SNP, on Friday announced that she is “open-minded” about who might emerge to lead a temporary government if Mr Johnson is removed from office and implied that “opposition parties would need to compromise if they want to win a vote of no confidence in Mr Johnson”. 

Moreover, Scottish Independence has once again regrown into the debates taking place in Westminster as, according to Deidre Brock (MP for Edinburgh North and Leith): “Scotland has been ill-served by the Brexit fanatics in Westminster and it has been Scotland that has pulled them up short but we should now take the sensible approach and remove ourselves from this broken system. It’s time for independence.” 

With the Scottish courts and legal system viewed as the “saviour” of Brexit by many across both the SNP and major parties, Scots may now feel more passionately toward a referendum due to the apparent ill-treatment of the nation by Central Government.

With the story changing every moment, the future of Brexit seems unclear, and at this point, could hold any prospect. 

Just this Friday, Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, announced that “failure to reach a Brexit deal would be the sole responsibility of the UK”.

This plunged the government into a further discussion over future accountability and it is unclear how the next few weeks are going to unfold. Will the UK be plunged into the “abyss” or “avoid the Johnson Catastrophe” as the highly politically active Brian May (Lead Guitarist of Queen) fears? Or will the UK face further uncertainty or potentially even clarity as Mr Johnson claims? 


Image: G20 Argentina via Flickr

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The Student Newspaper 2016