At the time of writing, it looks like Boris Johnson is going to try to call an election on Monday 14th October, if the House of Commons (as expected) votes to stop a No Deal Brexit after sittings resume later today.
Why Monday 14th October? That it’s a Monday is a little odd, but there is method in this. There have to be 25 working days between an election being agreed and it happening, and so Thursday 10th October it too tight. And Thursday 17th October… is the date of the European Council where Boris Johnson keeps on claiming that he is going to get a brilliant Brexit deal.
In other words, Johnson wants to go into an election campaign being able to claim he will get a brilliant deal from Brussels just three days after the close of the polls. As David Henig points out here, Johnson is not really going to be in a position to do that so soon after an election, but that is not going to stop Johnson saying it. Also as we know from Peter Foster and others there aren’t actual proposals from the UK to solve the backstop issue anyway. And lastly were Johnson to get the Withdrawal Agreement changed, the UK Parliament is not going to be able to ratify it by 31st October anyway, so at the very least a technical extension is going to be needed.
“Give me your votes and I will go to Brussels on 17th October and get a great deal, without the undemocratic backstop, and if that fails we will have No Deal” sounds like a plausible line – and taking it apart actually requires some knowledge and understanding.
In reality the only Brexit Deal the UK can actually get by 31st October is No Deal, and to crash out. But you can bet that opposition parties are not going to be able to nail Johnson on that one during an election campaign.
We have seen similar arguments deployed by the government when it comes to prorogation of Parliament. “We’re only loosing five sitting days and there is normally a recess at this time of year anyway” is the line taken by the likes of Richard Graham and James Cartlidge.
The problem is that here too taking this apart requires some knowledge. Prorogation is done without a vote of Parliament, while the Commons does vote for its own recess dates – and there were plans afoot to partially cancel the recess during party conference season. Prorogation also means all bills that have not completed their passage through the Houses fall. And there is the constitutional issue over whether prorogation for such a long period (5 weeks) is appropriate.
But there is just enough cover in this for the loyalists like Graham and Cartlidge to keep loyal and not be willing to label this what it is: a power grab by Johnson to limit Parliament’s power and time to scrutinise Brexit.
How, I wonder, do we find better ways to take all of this apart?