In the early hours of Tuesday 10th September, the House of Commons prorogued, ending the longest parliamentary session for over three hundred years. Instead of the normal twelve-month session this last one has run continuously since June 2017. When Parliament returns on 14th October, The Queen will deliver her first speech to Parliament in over two years, which will set out the new legislation to be introduced and also the priorities of the new government. Whatever your view on Parliament being prorogued at this time, it is clearly overdue and perfectly understandable for a new Prime Minister to want to set out his own programme before Parliament.
The House of Commons usually breaks for the party conferences in September and October, and the decision to prorogue Parliament from 9th September until 14th October, means that we are losing about seven sitting days when the House of Commons would usually have sat during this time. To me this hardly represents an attempt to silence Parliament and avoid scrutiny of the Government’s plans for Brexit. In fact, the House of Commons has done scarcely little else than debate this subject since Theresa May published the withdrawal agreement a year ago. People would be right to ask what progress Parliament has made during this time, and the answer would be not much. The House has agreed that it will support Brexit, but only with a deal, and each time a deal or options for a deal are presented to it, it votes them down. That is how we have been trapped in a Brexit doom loop of never-ending debate and no conclusion. I believe that Boris Johnson is right to state that this cannot continue, and we have to keep to 31st October as the date for our departure.
Over the next few weeks the Government will continue in its negotiations with other European nations and the EU institutions in Brussels to reach a Brexit deal. This is however unlikely to be confirmed until the European Council meeting of the heads of government of all of the member states, on 17th and 18th October; after Parliament returns for the start of the new session. The House of Commons will then have the opportunity to debate and vote on the Brexit deal, as well as the Government’s programme as set out in The Queen’s Speech.
There is no doubt that the legislation passed this week by both Houses of Parliament, without the support of the Government, has made the Brexit negotiation process harder. For the UK to say that it will only leave the EU with a deal, makes it much easier for them to dictate the terms of the deal they are prepared to offer. However, this is undoubtedly the moment when getting a good deal is most likely, and the Prime Minister, fully aware of his obligations under the law, has made it clear that he will not ask for an extension to the negotiating deadline of 31st October. It is in everyone’s interests to bring this process to a close and end the uncertainty it has created.