Thursday 27 June 2019
Dominic Grieve is up to his usual tricks. The constant Remainer has hatched, or rather re-hashed a plan with Labour’s Margaret Beckett to restrict government funding via little-known finance legislation known as “estimates” in order to avoid No Deal.
Funding for schools, development, pensions and the like will only be released if a withdrawal agreement is passed – both Grieve and Beckett voted against Theresa May’s deal – or if the House of Commons agrees to leave without an agreement, which is never going to happen with this parliament.
“The suggestion that we could or should be taken out of the EU without the consent of the House of Commons is fundamentally wrong, and frankly unconstitutional,” Grieve told the Sun in typically condescending fashion.
“The fact that it is being suggested as a viable option is unacceptable. The Commons should put down such markers as it can that such a course of action is unacceptable.”
Yvette Cooper made a similar amendment to a tax bill in January setting in motion May’s eventual backing. If this one passes, the government will be under even more pressure to find a withdrawal agreement that can get a majority, but that’s exactly what Theresa May was attempting to do. Her last effort led directly to her resignation.
Grieve will be hoping Number 10 switches to a pro second referendum position to get that majority via Labour votes. However, opposition MPs will be reluctant to get behind a tactic that entails restricting government spending. They prefer to keep the money taps gushing.
If Jeremy Corbyn chooses to whip in favour of the amendment, the government has the option of delaying until after the summer recess, but not beyond the October 31st exit date – the estimates legislation is a constitutional requirement. If Downing Street feel there’s a genuine threat of a shutdown, it will have to consider proroguing parliament.
Thus Grieve’s familiar meddling may lead to the right outcome. Speaker Bercow will have something to say. Boris Johnson already does, but not in a good way.
I am “not attracted to archaic devices like proroguing,” said Johnson at an online Hustings yesterday. Check our Twitter feed for the best bits.
That wasn’t the only worrying statement. Boris also fuelled mounting concerns his plan is simply to reintroduce the existing withdrawal agreement to the House of Commons. The chances of No Deal are “a million to one against,” said Johnson.
If Britain is leaving on Halloween with a deal, the only plausible outcome is to pass the same withdrawal agreement. The Sun reports plans to cancel the conference season recess, hinting at fervent efforts to get a renegotiated settlement, but that hands Brussels the initiative.
Let’s hope Boris can seize it back.