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UK News Desk

Government defeated by 41 as MPs pass amendment obstructing prorogation

MPs yesterday supported an amendment to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill, aimed at making it more difficult for the next Prime Minister to prorogue Parliament to force through a No Deal Brexit. The Government was defeated by 315 to 274, a majority of 41, after 17 Conservative MPs rebelled. The amendment to the Northern Ireland Bill, tabled by former Conservative minister Alastair Burt and Labour MP Hilary Benn, requires Parliament to be recalled if it is prorogued in October and meet for the five following days. This is ostensibly to ensure Government compliance with requirements under previous amendments to publish reports to the Commons on the restoration of devolution in Northern Ireland, and to table a neutral motion on the matter. Speaking after the vote, Hillary Benn said, “This is a very significant amendment because it sends a very significant message to the Prime Minister  if you think you can lock the doors on that chamber and tell us to go away until the 31st October, Parliament will not allow that to happen.”

Margot James, one of the 17 Conservative MPs to vote for the amendment, resigned her position as Digital Minister in order to cast her vote. Four Cabinet ministers abstained – Chancellor Phillip Hammond, Justice Secretary David Gauke, Business Secretary Greg Clark, and International Development Secretary Rory Stewart, together with four junior ministers. The Prime Minister’s spokesman said the abstaining ministers would not be sacked, but added, “The Prime Minister is obviously disappointed that a number of ministers failed to vote in this afternoon’s division. No doubt her successor will take this into account when forming their Government.”

Speaking before the vote, the Leader of the House of Commons, Mel Stride, said, “There are a number of occasions where prorogation may occur. But I think the essential principle here is that it should not occur simply as a device to exempt Parliament from the important decisions there will be arising around No Deal or a deal as we approach the end of October.”

Elsewhere, BBC Newsnight reports that senior Conservative MPs opposed to No Deal are considering asking the Queen to intervene if the next Prime Minister tried to pursue a No Deal Brexit against the will of Parliament. The plan would involve holding a vote on a parliamentary device known as a “humble address” to the Queen; if passed the address would say that if the Prime Minister ignored Parliament, the Queen should exercise her right as head of state to request an extension to the Article 50 process. However, the supposed move has already been criticised by other opponents of No Deal. Dominic Grieve, the Conservative MP who has led many anti-No Deal efforts, said, “One of my duties as a member of Parliament is to avoid drawing the monarch into politics. I don’t know where this idea came from but it certainly didn’t come from me.”

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