Brexit minus two months: prorogation edition

As the Conservatives move to a substantial lead in the polls, Boris Johnson controversially prorogues Parliament. Guest post by Adrian Beaumont.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is an honorary associate at The University of Melbourne. His work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

On August 28, Boris Johnson announced that Parliament would be prorogued (suspended) from about September 11 to October 14. Most of the period of prorogation occurs from September 13 to October 7, when Parliament would have been scheduled for a recess owing to the UK party conferences. William Bowe covered the legal aspects of prorogation.

The Commons returns from summer recess on September 3. With Labour agreeing to pursue legislation to force Johnson to request a Brexit extension if no deal can be reached, a no-confidence vote is unlikely. Any such legislation would need to pass both chambers of Parliament and receive royal assent before prorogation, or the process would need to re-start after the Queen’s address opening the new parliamentary session on October 14.

If a vote of no-confidence were called by the opposition leader, it would be debated and voted on the next sitting day. However, passing legislation against the government’s wishes requires overturning the government’s order of business, and the government could attempt to filibuster. Rebel Conservative MPs are still not prepared to support a no-confidence vote.

As I wrote previously, I do not think such legislation would be effective in binding Johnson. If the Commons wants to avoid crashing out, there are two viable solutions: a no-confidence vote in Johnson followed by confidence in someone who will request an extension, or revoking Brexit legislation altogether. It is unlikely the numbers exist for either of these solutions, and with Johnson seemingly prepared to do whatever it takes, the UK is likely to leave without a deal on October 31.

Polls show the Conservatives increasing their lead over Labour as hard Brexit parties (Conservatives and Brexit) have mid to high 40’s support combined. Three polls taken after prorogation had the Conservatives 7 to 11 points ahead of Labour. As those who don’t want a hard Brexit are split between pure Remain parties and Labour, the Conservatives would win an election on current polls. In a Survation poll (normally Labour supporters’ favourite pollster), prorogation was only opposed 40-39, and by 49-42, voters did not want to delay Brexit to improve the deal.  Johnson had a +6 net approval rating.

In April 2017, Labour was further behind than they are now, but Corbyn accepted Theresa May’s offer of a June 8 election, and Labour surged during the campaign to cause the current hung parliament. I think many people want Brexit to be resolved before the next election. Polls taken before Johnson became PM suggested danger for him in holding an election before Brexit had occurred. The high current ratings for hard Brexit parties may be because people want Johnson to get on with delivering Brexit, not a pre-Brexit election.

If there is no no-confidence vote by prorogation, any new election would occur well after the October 31 deadline, as Parliament needs to agree by a two-thirds majority to hold a new election called by the PM. I do not expect Johnson to achieve a deal with the European Union, as any feasible deal would be unacceptable to Johnson’s supporters, and so would any delay to Brexit.  If the UK economy crashes after a no-deal Brexit, that’s when I would expect the polls to turn decisively against Johnson and the Conservatives.

Bolsonaro’s victory was far bigger than Trump’s

There has been much condemnation of far-right Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro over the Amazon forest fires. At the October 2018 presidential election, Bolsonaro won 46.0% in the first round, to 29.3% for his nearest rival, the Workers’ Party’s Fernando Haddad.  Bolsonaro defeated Haddad with 55.1% in the runoff.

At the November 2016 US presidential election, Donald Trump lost the national popular vote by 2.1% to Hillary Clinton, winning only due to the Electoral College.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

144 comments on “Brexit minus two months: prorogation edition”

  1. I really dont follow UK/EU politics and history, but my 2c;

    The UK used to be (at least to some extent) the tail wagging the dog. After brexit, they will be just a tail.

    They where one of the leading countries of influence in the EU, post brexit they become less relevent to the EU, and less relevant to the rest of the world.

    If i was the EU, post brexit UK would go to the back of the line for any negotiations for long as possible, make sure the UK really understand they arent part of the EU anymore, that they are alone because they chose to be.

  2. In current UK law, the party controls the use of its ballot paper label and logo. If the party Delegated Nominating Officer does not sign the appropriate form, then a candidate cannot be listed on the ballot paper as a nominee of the party. A candidate without official party approval can either be listed as an Independent or leave the ballot paper description blank.

  3. Today is the 80th anniversary of Britain and its colonies and dominions (including Australia) declaring war on Germany.

    It could also see an exciting showdown in the Commons if the Tory rebels force an election for 14th October and destroy the Tory-DUP alliance.

  4. Gary J @ #52 Tuesday, September 3rd, 2019 – 7:56 am

    In current UK law, the party controls the use of its ballot paper label and logo. If the party Delegated Nominating Officer does not sign the appropriate form, then a candidate cannot be listed on the ballot paper as a nominee of the party. A candidate without official party approval can either be listed as an Independent or leave the ballot paper description blank.

    Thanks for that. Effectively all parties have a veto on their candidates.

    So who decides? Is it the party leader? Can Johnson dis-endorse anyone who pisses him off? That would be an exciting way to go to a general election. They’d have to parachute in an alternative. Bit of a risk that.

  5. Honest Bastard @ #47 Tuesday, September 3rd, 2019 – 5:02 am

    Analysis from Matthew Goodwin of how things might go in an election:

    How it could all go wrong for Boris

    True to my handle I was late reading this. The relevant acronym was BRINO (Brexit In Name Only). In summary, what can go wrong for Boris is Nigel. Boris knows this. So Boris is pursuing, and will continue to pursue, a no-deal Brexit. We can ignore the excuses. And Farage wins again. Because of Boris, Nigel can’t lose.

  6. To my previous post, I should add that I disagree with Matthew Goodwin’s conclusions, that Farage will end up putting Corbyn into Number 10. It might happen, but at this stage I think Johnson is still motivated by his itch to be “King of the World”. So Johnson won’t oblige. No-deal Brexit will happen. A general election too. It’s almost as if the UK’s need for frisson is the driver.

    As an aside: When did egos take over our world? Is there such a thing as national boredom? (No answers required.)

  7. The SNP would love a General Election. It will make it an Indepences Election.

    Polls are indicating that it is possible that both the Conservative and Labour Parties in Scotland could be left with a seat each and the LibDems their existing 4.

    That would give the SNP 53 of the 59 Scottish seats and a clear mandate to initiate IndyRef2. 🙂

  8. Late Riser @ 7:55 pm

    I also disagree with Matthew’s concluding paragraph. This Brexit impasse is making things tough for the Conservative party but it’s also making things just as tough or tougher for the Labour party. They have been backing away from supporting a vote for a general election today because they have realised it could go disastrously for them (despite what Matthew says about things potentially changing rapidly during a campaign). The Conservatives weren’t able to win Brexit supporting Labour electorates in northern England in the last election because jumping from voting Labour all your life to voting Conservative is still too much for many people (and I sympathise). But voting for the Brexit party is much more palatable to that demographic as was demonstrated in the European elections this year, where Farage did very well in the north.

    The dual tension that has now sprung up between the left/right axis and the leave/remain axis is so interesting. I think we’re seeing the remaking of the political landscape in the UK, with the two major parties losing the grip they’ve held on the electorate over the last ~100 years. Not to mention the prospect of the UK breaking up (which I personally would celebrate, particularly Scottish Independence). Very interesting times. How soon before such a political shake-up happens in Australia too? Not imminent but not a distant prospect either I think.

  9. “I think we’re seeing the remaking of the political landscape in the UK”

    That’s an interesting thought, though a Leave/Remain axis will have to morph into something else to survive. Maybe Isolationist/Globalist? It’s a bit scary if I think of how it might be remade. My guess is that Leave and Remain will each migrate to opposite corners to end up with either Left/Remain versus Right/Leave, or Left/Leave versus Right/Remain. Alternatively Isolationism versus Globalism could emerge to dominate politics and each separately contain within themselves different expressions for left and right. The Brexit Party clearly has an allure. Sometimes I’d love to live another lifetime, just to see how it unfolds.

    But for now I think “Englishness” is still dominant in the UK and Aus. And while it’s hard for me to imagine a Brexit equivalent for Australia, who knows? Maybe China will shake us up (and the rest of the world too). And Elizabeth won’t live for ever.

  10. Zoidlord @ #65 Wednesday, September 4th, 2019 – 7:38 am

    21 members of the UK Conservative Party voted against their own Prime Minister.

    So the next step is a general election on October 14, with those 21 not on the Tory ticket. But will this stop a no-deal Brexit? I’ve read (somewhere) that Johnson could simply ignore the bill. And Johnson has said

    The Prime Minister warned Remainers that in “no circumstances” will he agree to another delay, meaning they will have to force him from Downing Street if they want to postpone Brexit beyond Oct 31.

    https://brexitcentral.com/today/brexit-news-for-tuesday-3-september/
    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/09/02/brexit-news-get-ready-boris-johnson-prorogue-parliament/
    https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/brexit/9847442/brexit-news-boris-johnson-snap-general-election/
    And the EU would still have to agree to yet another extension. (Is any request credible? Is the ongoing uncertainty worth it? etc.) Though there is some alarm in the EU at the prospect of a no-deal Brexit.

    To me it still looks like a no-deal Brexit in 58 days.

  11. At the same time they hold the election they should run a referendum on Brexit and no-deal Brexit.

    I worry that Boris will win by default (the first past the post system!) or a minority go with the Lib-Dems deciding who to team with.

    whatever the outcome it’s still going to be a mess. I wouldn’t want to be the UK PM at present – both major parties are seriously divided, the electorate is bolshie and the economy is about to crash. there’s a good chance scotland and even northern ireland might bail from the union (whose flag will be put in the corner of ours it the union jack is obsolete?)

  12. I’m still reading about the Fixed Term Act but apparently it requires a 2/3 majority in parliament in favour of a general election. So there’s some doubt with Labour afraid they will lose badly if the election is held before Brexit happens. It will be interesting how that vote splits both the Tories and Labour.

    Also, Farage is putting his oar in. He’s calling for a “clean” Brexit.
    https://twitter.com/BrexitCentral/status/1168812036190547968

  13. Indeed, businesses do not do well under anti-democratic, technocratic, supra-states such as the USSR and the EU.

    However, the EU is not Europe. European but not EU countries Iceland, Switzerland & Norway are all doing quite well at present. Although the EU is currently waging a serious bullying campaign against Switzerland and the wishes of its people. Plus ça change…

  14. Late Riser @ #70 Wednesday, September 4th, 2019 – 9:37 am

    I’m still reading about the Fixed Term Act but apparently it requires a 2/3 majority in parliament in favour of a general election. So there’s some doubt with Labour afraid they will lose badly if the election is held before Brexit happens. It will be interesting how that vote splits both the Tories and Labour.

    Also, Farage is putting his oar in. He’s calling for a “clean” Brexit.
    https://twitter.com/BrexitCentral/status/1168812036190547968

    A Hard Brexit will be very messy indeed. 😐

  15. I can’t see any way a soft Brexit can be achieved. The EU can’t and won’t remove the backstop, and the Commons has made it clear on no less than three occasions that it won’t accept the backstop. So the options are no Brexit or a hard Brexit.

    Does anyone here disagree?

  16. So Labour now has a very big decision to make; support a GE and put everything on the line, or block a GE and see if Borris is bluffing about defying legislation demanding that he request an extension from the EU. The stakes are very high now!

    The issue for Labour in a GE is how they position themselves to try to avoid remainer vote splitting, while somehow also trying to hold the north. I think Labour will have to commit to a second referendum, but even then, what will that look like? There are so many fine lines! Right now, it seems more likely than not that the Conservatives would win a GE, but I do think that Corbyn is smarter than people give him credit for, so I certainly don’t underestimate his ability to pull of a win. This is going to be some ride!

  17. Ante Meridian @ #75 Wednesday, September 4th, 2019 – 11:01 am

    I can’t see any way a soft Brexit can be achieved. The EU can’t and won’t remove the backstop, and the Commons has made it clear on no less than three occasions that it won’t accept the backstop. So the options are no Brexit or a hard Brexit.

    Does anyone here disagree?

    As far as I can see things from this far away (though I have some friends coming back from London next week, so I will pick their brains), Jeremy Corbyn favours a Brexit that is virtually a Remain in everything but name only. I would think that he’d have to do something about the free flow of workers, which seems to be the thing that most Brits have a bee in their bonnet about, but that would be it, basically. A ‘Sovereign’ UK but with strong ties to Europe.

  18. AM

    A GE does potentially change that by changing the composition of the Commons. For example, a Corbyn Government would likely be prepared to accept some form of backstop and therefore be more likely to come to a deal with the EU. Personally, I think the backstop is a terrible idea that should be rejected, but the EU certainly won’t bend on it being part of any deal.

  19. Matt31,

    That’s true, an election would change the numbers. Even so my reading (and again I ask if anyone sees it otherwise) is that the Tories would have to be smashed, not just suffer a common or garden defeat.

  20. To dissolve the Commons to call a GE, Boris needs a 2/3 vote. That means he needs Labour support.

    In my opinion, Labour should avoid giving him a GE before prorogation starts next week. Even when this bill is passed through the Lords (probably by Monday), they should use other excuses to avoid a GE – such as not trusting Boris to obey this legislation.

    When Parliament resumes after prorogation on Oct 14, Boris will either need to request a Brexit delay, or defy Parliament and go for no-deal (or he could try reviving May’s deal – unlikely). If he defies Parlt, there will very likely be a successful no-confidence vote in late Oct. Then it’s either a Corbyn govt to extend Brexit, or, more likely, a new GE held several weeks after a no-deal Brexit.

  21. Ante Meridian:

    It hasn’t been clear to me if the Conservatives not wanting to accept the backstop was mostly driven by their current reliance on the DUP votes, or whether it runs deeper. If the former, then an election that deals the DUP out of their crucial position could change things?

  22. ‘Boerwar says:
    Wednesday, September 4, 2019 at 9:41 am

    You would not want to be a business in Europe ATM.’

    Still worse is being a business in some tinpot offshore Dorian Grey disintegrating state like Britain.

  23. C@tmomma @ #77 Wednesday, September 4th, 2019 – 11:14 am

    As far as I can see things from this far away (though I have some friends coming back from London next week, so I will pick their brains), Jeremy Corbyn favours a Brexit that is virtually a Remain in everything but name only. I would think that he’d have to do something about the free flow of workers, which seems to be the thing that most Brits have a bee in their bonnet about, but that would be it, basically. A ‘Sovereign’ UK but with strong ties to Europe.

    Giong back to May’s time.
    https://www.express.co.uk/news/politics/1044888/Brexit-news-what-is-BRINO-what-does-BRINO-mean-Brexit-in-name-only

    Many have slammed the new deal as BRINO – Brexit in Name Only – blasting the deal as a sell out to the EU.

    My guess is that Corbyn doesn’t want to be branded that way. I’ve changed my mind now and I doubt there will be a GE before November. Johnson has outsmarted himself. Whatever you want to call it there will be a ‘hard’, or a ‘no-deal’, or a ‘chaos’, or a ‘clean’ Brexit in 58 days.

  24. ‘caf says:
    Wednesday, September 4, 2019 at 11:37 am

    Ante Meridian:

    It hasn’t been clear to me if the Conservatives not wanting to accept the backstop was mostly driven by their current reliance on the DUP votes, or whether it runs deeper. If the former, then an election that deals the DUP out of their crucial position could change things?’

    There are Conservatives and there are Conservatives.

    Quite a number of them have adopted the traditional four century old English posture that Ireland can GAGF. If that meant showing national bad faith and walking away from the Good Friday Accords, so be it. Now such trustworthy luminaries as Johnson are outraged that the EU is insisting that the UK sticks to the essence of the Good Friday Accords.

    The corollaries of the rank english populism that lies at the hear of Engixt is that Scotland (sooner) and Ireland (later) will be leaving the UK. That will create, in the short term, over 600km of land borders with the EU.

    English GDP less NI GDP and less Scotland GDP will shift England GDP to somewhere behind France and India, aka from 5th to 7th.

    With the forced transfer the City, and its $50-60 billion in annual revenue to the Exchequer, from England to Frankfurt, Paris, Amsterdam and Dublin the consequences of the rush of the Tory Gadarene Swine will be complete.

    Naturally the concomitants will be labour and environment rules set by Trump’s US by way of the US-England Trade Treaty.

    It is all looking so good.

  25. If a GE isn’t called then I expect Boris to ignore any legislation that says he has to apply for an extension. The ball will be in Labour’s court to then either go for a No Confidence motion or straight to a GE.

    At the moment a WTO Rules Exit is the most likely outcome with the UK not enforcing a hard border in NI.

    Labour has no option but to either accept the WTO Rules Exit or go to a GE. They will likely win a No Confidence Motion but I doubt that they could command a majority which therefore leads to a GE.

    I fully expect that the Conservatives will win a GE – May is no longer in power running one of the worst Conservative Election Campaigns in history while having any attempt to BREXIT white anted by here Cabinet full of remainers. The Brexit Party will no longer have a reason to syphon off Conservative votes. The hope that Labour will do the same Lazarus recovery as last time is very slim.

    Parliament is deliberately trying to subvert the will of the people to BREXIT and all those that are responsible for that need to pay the price – especially the Conservatives who have opposed BREXIT at every turn.

  26. If a majority of MPs are serious about stopping a no-deal Brexit, they could vote no-confidence and install someone other than Corbyn as PM. That someone could be a rebel tory, or a LibDem, or some independent or minor party member who is competent and inoffensive – some Mr./Mrs. Nobody. Their brief would to ask the EU for an extension and then act as caretaker until such time as a deal is agreed to or an election organised.

    All it would take is for the coalition of opposition parties and tory rebels to work together for a common goal.

    It won’t happen, of course.

  27. And I should add to my post above, it wouldn’t work anyway because no acceptable deal can be reached for the reasons I mentioned earlier.

    The point is that there’s no law that says the only alternative to Johnson is Corbyn. There’s another path, if the situation is desperate enough.

  28. Ante Meridian:

    All it would take is for the coalition of opposition parties and tory rebels to work together for a common goal.

    They could call it a Government Of National Disunity.

  29. On the backstop

    I find it rather amusing that somehow creating a backstop, which really is another name for a border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK is fine, but creating a border between Northern Ireland and Ireland is not. It is a one sided, pro Irish Nationalist-Republican view which completely ignores the many, many people in Northern Ireland who want to remain in the UK. In fact, it has been pointed out by unionists that in fact the backstop itself is not consistent with the GFA, a view I completely support as it is really creating a united Ireland through a back door. This is not something that Northern Ireland unionists could ever support. I’m no fan of Brexit, but I am even less a fan of the backstop.

    On where to from here, my thought all along has been that the best chance to avoid a no deal Brexit was and still is a vote of no confidence and a caretaker government that would then ask for an extension. I have little doubt that Borris Johnson will defy any legislation requiring him to ask for a Brexit extension. It is clear that such a motion won’t be moved this session. So it seems like it’s either support a GE, or accept a no deal Brexit; a very hard decision for Labour to make.

  30. Matt31

    Isn’t the backstop just maintaining the current arrangements for the free movement of goods and people between the two parts of Ireland?

    You must consider that Ireland is therefore currently a united country? Most odd.

  31. This is all very uncertain………… if both Northern Ireland and Scotland leave the UK what happens? Is Ireland reunited……….? Will there be a perm Tory govt in the truncated UK?I doubt nth Ireland could exist in it’s own right. Do the Welsh leave uk as well?

  32. Mick Quinlivan

    Well, i am a firm believer in the human right to self-determination. So it’s up to them. Nation states cannot be prisons in which peoples are forever incarcerated.

    This applies universally to Tibet, West Papua, Catalunya, Taiwan, Scotland, Kashmir etc.

  33. There is no call for Northern Ireland to split from the UK to become a separate country. Not that I’ve ever heard, anyway. The only way NI would leave the UK would be to unite with the republic.

    The independence movement in Wales is puny, although the current chaos might give it a boost. Also bear in mind that unlike Scotland, Wales doesn’t have its own legal system and is a de facto part of England for most purposes , so splitting it off would be a completely different plot.

    Edit: If Wales did leave, at least the remaining United Kingdom wouldn’t have to change its flag.

  34. The welsh of course have an independence party Plaid Cymru.

    Wales was conquered and incorporated into the English Kingdom as a Principality. I understand there are significant areas with many English settlers, land owners.

  35. Wales gets twice as much subsidy from England than it pays in taxes. It would be an economic disaster for them to go independent. They would not be able to pay pensions or unemployment benefits etc. let alone schools and police.

  36. I would just like to thank everyone here for the informative and reasoned discussion. It contrasts sharply with the childish bickering over irrelevant twaddle that’s taking place on the main thread.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *