Five-week suspension of Parliament to begin tonight

9 September 2019, 07:52

Boris Johnson and Leo Varadkar in Dublin today
Boris Johnson and Leo Varadkar in Dublin today. Picture: pa

By Asher McShane

Downing Street has confirmed that Parliament will not be sitting beyond the end of business on Monday with opposition MPs expected to reject government calls for a snap election in a vote this evening.

Labour said they were determined to prevent Boris Johnson "crashing us out" of the EU in a no-deal Brexit in the midst of an election campaign.

Parliament sessions will not take place until October 14. It is expected the Prime Minister will lose a vote later tonight on holding a snap election the following day.

The government wants to find a way of getting around rebel legislation ordering him to ask the EU for an extension if no agreement has been agreed by October 19.

Pressure is mounting from Eurosceptics for Boris to stick to his promise not to delay the UK's departure from Europe.

Earlier Mr Johnson described a No Deal Brexit as a “failure for which we would all be responsible” as he met with Irish PM Leo Varadkar.

Mr Johnson was in Dublin for his first face-to-face meeting with Taoiseach Mr Varadkar.

The PM’s Irish counterpart said there was no such thing as a “clean break” between the UK and the EU.

Mr Johnson said: “"I have one message that I want to land with you today Leo and that is that I want to find a deal.

"I want to get a deal, like you I’ve looked carefully at No Deal and accessed its consequences for our country and yours.

"Yes we could do it [get through No Deal], we could get through it, but that outcome would be a failure of statecraft of which we would all be responsible."

Mr Varadkar said: "In my view the story of Brexit won't end if the UK leaves the EU the 31st October or 31st of January.

"There is no such thing as a clean break. No deal will cause much disruption to Ireland," Mr Varadkar added.

"All issues which we have resolved in the Withdrawal Agreement, agreed by 28 governments.

"Well have to deal with issues like tariffs and state aid, ratified by 28 governments."

Mr Varadkar added that organising trade deals with the US and other governments would be a "Herculean task".

"We do want to be your friend and ally in doing so," he added.

"I am ready to listen, but what we will not do is replace a legal guarantee with a promise.

"So the stakes are high, avoiding a return to a hard border is the priority of this government. We are open to all alternatives legally workable but we have not received such to date.

Boris Johnson said a No Deal Brexit would be a "failure of statecraft"
Boris Johnson said a No Deal Brexit would be a "failure of statecraft". Picture: pa

MPs will be offered another vote tonight on whether they will support a general election.

Opposition parties want the so-called ‘surrender bill’ aimed at avoiding a No Deal Brexit to be implemented before they take any vote.

Mr Varadkar earlier poured cold water on suggestions of a breakthrough on the stalemate over a solution to the Irish backstop, the safety net agreed by the European Union and the UK to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland.

Boris Johnson on a visit to a farm near Aberdeen last week
Boris Johnson on a visit to a farm near Aberdeen last week. Picture: pa

On Sunday, Mr Johnson bunkered down in Chevening, the Foreign Secretary's country residence, with his closest aides, understood to have included chief strategist Dominic Cummings, where he is understood to have wargamed how the crucial week ahead could pan out.

With the PM being warned by Justice Secretary Robert Buckland about the "importance of the Rule of Law" following hints that Mr Johnson could be tempted to break the law to deliver Brexit by Halloween, Downing Street looked to double down on pushing for an election.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told Sky News' Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme that any blame for the failure to leave the EU by October 31 could be laid at the feet of Labour and the Liberal Democrats and others opposing no-deal.

"What I'm going to do is redouble our efforts to get a deal but... if we can't do that, it is very clear that the blockage is Jeremy Corbyn, the Liberal Democrats and others who are not willing to respect the referendum," he said.

He called the Benn Bill "lousy", before adding: "The key thing with an extension is it requires agreement on both sides and it is very difficult for the legislation to micro-manage in detail how that conversation will go."

France has suggested it could veto lengthening the talks, with French Foreign Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, telling reporters: "We are not going to do this (extend the deadline) every three months."

The Daily Telegraph, formerly one of Mr Johnson's employers, quoted a Downing Street source who said Monday would be the final opportunity for MPs to stop no-deal.

To call a general election early using the Fixed-Term Parliament Act (FTPA), two-thirds of MPs would have to agree.

The No10 source reportedly said: "(Monday) is the last chance for Corbyn to be prime minister and negotiate his delay at Brussels (at the European Council summit) on October 17-18.

"If he opposes the people having their say in an election on October 15, then MPs should realise they may not be able to stop no-deal.

The hardball act has been taken with MPs after Taoiseach Mr Varadkar said he did not expect a breakthrough when the pair meet for the first time since Mr Johnson was elevated to PM.

Mr Varadkar said: "I don't think the meeting tomorrow is a high stakes meeting, as I don't anticipate a big breakthrough tomorrow.

"If we come to an agreement that agreement will happen in October at the EU summit."

Amber Rudd's assessment that more effort is being put into no-deal preparations than the divorce negotiations with Brussels will be tested on Monday with a host of ministers and senior civil servants facing questioning on the UK's readiness to leave without an agreement in place.

Ms Rudd made the claim after sensationally quitting the Cabinet and the Tory Party on Saturday.

She has been replaced as Work and Pensions Secretary by Therese Coffey, a loyalist who was promoted from her role as environment minister.

Meanwhile, Mr Johnson has essentially disbanded the Europe unit which had led negotiations with Brussels on a Brexit deal, The Times newspaper has reported.

The group working under chief Brexit negotiator David Frost consists of just four staffers, the paper says, whereas it did have more than 50 civil servants at the height of negotiations over the original withdrawal agreement, with additions support also provided by various Government departments.

MPs will also debate on Monday a petition backed by 1.7 million people demanding prorogation must not be prorogued unless Article 50 is extended.