What does the Supreme Court ruling mean for Parliament, and where do we go from here?
Blue Beyond's parliamentary liaison lead, Ryan Baldry, dissects what that Supreme Court ruling from yesterday actually means.
There is no doubt about it that the Supreme Court ruling, which declared the prorogation of Parliament void, was unpredicted and unprecedented. However, as that awful saying goes, we are in unprecedented times. Over the coming days and weeks, we will hear a lot of rhetoric about what this means for the Government and what the ruling means for Brexit. Here, I’m going to attempt to cut through some of the noise coming from SW1 and set out the way forward.
Firstly, this ruling, as exciting and controversial as it seems, does not change anything for the immediate future. Parliament is now sitting again and carries on its work as though nothing happened. We have essentially forgotten that the last few weeks of recess did not exist and everything is as it was. For legislation, this means that some Bills have a second chance of life as they are now not being dropped at the end of the session. For example, the Domestic Violence Bill will be able to continue it’s passage through Parliament. Select Committees will sit as normal and Parliament carries on its day to day functions… But therein lies the problem. Parliament is stuck in a cycle. The Government, now without a majority on 288 seats, is begging the opposition to call a Vote of No Confidence or ask two thirds of Parliament to vote for an early election under the Fixed Term Parliament Act. The Opposition are torn on this. Labour do not want to vote for an election while the Brexit deadline looms as this means we would probably leave without a deal in the middle of a campaign. Obviously, the Lib Dems and the SNP are also against this. But the problem goes deeper. Many Labour MPs, as much as they may dislike us, dislike their own leader even more. So, why would they support any motion that gets Corbyn potentially closer to Number 10? The Labour front bench say that until an extension to Brexit is secured, they will never vote for an election. The Government will not ask for an extension and is committed to the 31stOctober deadline. And we then start all over again. As Geoffrey Cox said, this is a dead Parliament.
There is however a potential way forward. Even though this prorogation was voted down, the Government could technically move that the House rises for a short prorogation of 4-5 days. The Supreme Court did say that this would be an acceptable amount of time to prepare a Queen’s Speech. This would mean that, if speculation is to be believed, the PM could wrap a Brexit Deal in to a Queen’s Speech and essentially dare the opposition to vote it down and push the UK into a no-deal exit. This is of course risky, but our best hope. It would mean that the Government could secure a deal, hopefully win some of our MPs back onto our side, and continue governing until a majority vote for a General Election.
The main thing to say at this point is that all of this is a guess. Even from working in Parliament it is clear that we aren’t sure about what is coming next. With precedent being challenged on a daily basis and a Speaker on his way out of office, anything could happen and the next few weeks will not be pretty or easy. One final point to consider after all of this though, is that the time is quickly approaching where we must question how fit for purpose our unwritten constitution is. We are long past the days where Government was conducted by agreement, precedent and tradition. Personally, I think that these events will give way to a much bigger debate on whether or not we should have a codified constitution in order to protect our institutions from the abuse and politicising that we have seen in recent months.
Nevertheless, the path forward is still very unclear and quite frankly, may have changed again by the end of the week. What is certain is that we are currently working against a Parliament determined to keep us from going back to the people in an election and that surely cannot be right.