The Brexit Breakdown: Hot summer days and heated debates
(An edited overlay of the photo of Boris Johnson and EU/UK flags / Flickr & Pixbay)
Disclaimer: Note that this piece was written approximately a week before publishing, and therefore does not account for the most recent developments.
It has been a hot summer in the UK, not only because it was the warmest recorded summer in history, but also because it was filled with heated debates over Brexit. With the help of the below timeline this article looks back on some of the most important Brexit moments in the UK over the past months. From May’s resignation to the prorogation, and from the Benn Bill to the rumour mill. Finally, we will also briefly look forward to some important dates that are coming up before the Brexit deadline on the 31st of October.
On the 7th of June Theresa May resigned as leader of the Conservative party, she announced her departure in a tearful speech in front of 10th Downing Street. May’s resignation did not come a as much of a surprise to anyone, there had already been a vote of no confidence against her back in December, and after she failed to get her Brexit deal through Parliament three times the calls for her resignation grew even louder. The week after May’s resignation a leadership contest within the Conservative Party began, which was won by Boris Johnson.
Chatham House London Conference, 23-24 October 2017, St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, London / Flickr
The documents, which were released to Parliament in September, show that higher food prices, reduced medical supplies and chaos at border checkpoints are real risks of a no-deal. These documents demonstrate how serious the consequences of leaving the EU without a deal might be for the UK. However the continuing preparations indicate that Johnson and his allies in the Conservative Party are ready to accept these consequences in order to implement Britain’s exit from the European Union.
Towards the end of Parliament’s recess, on the 28th of August, Johnson announced that Parliament would be prorogued – suspended – prior to a Queen’s Speech on the 14th of October. It is normal for a new government to prorogue Parliament briefly before a Queen’s Speech, in which the government’s plans are set out. However, it is not normal for a prorogation to last for 5 weeks, as Johnson planned.
The timing of this suspension was also significant, as it would start almost immediately after Parliament returned from recess and it would end only a few weeks before the Brexit deadline. As the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, put it; “it is blindingly obvious that the purpose of [suspending Parliament] now would be to stop [MPs] debating Brexit”. If the UK cannot agree on a deal with the EU, and they do not ask for an extension, they will automatically leave the EU on the 31st of October, which is why it is so important that Parliament has enough time to debate this issue. Just hours after announcing the prorogation protesters gathered at Westminster and chanted “stop the coup”.
The week after prorogation was announced members of Parliament returned to Westminster, many were outraged over the prorogation and prepared to fight, what they saw as, Johnson’s attempt to force through a no-deal Brexit. Labour MP Hilary Benn tabled a bill that would “ensure that the UK does not leave the EU on October 31 without an agreement” and that would force the prime minister to ask for an extension if he could not reach a deal. This bill, now commonly known as the Benn Bill, got great support from members of different parties and it passed through the House of Commons on the 4th of September. The Benn Bill was also supported by 21 Conservative members of Parliament, who thus defied their party, all of them were kicked out of the party that same day. Amongst these 21 members are prominent conservatives such as the grandson of Winston Churchill.
Finally, some important dates to look forward to are the 14th and the 17th of October. On the 14th Queen Elizabeth will hold her Queens Speech, although it is unlikely that she will say much about Brexit. On the 17th the European Council will come together to discuss Brexit and possibly accepts or rejects Johnson’s proposed deal. And of course, the 31st of October remains the most important date in the near future as this is still likely to be the day that the UK leaves the EU, or could there be another extension?
If you want to know more about Brexit you can listen to this podcast from UPF Radio, or read this interesting article about the situation at the Irish border. And keep a look out for the next article in this Brexit Breakdown series in which the position of the EU will be discussed!