Head of Market Affairs
Last week, BBC Parliament was dubbed “the new Big Brother” with viewers tuning in in their thousands to watch the latest shenanigans in the House live. And what a week it was…
Article 50 extension
Parliament is set to pass a law today which will oblige the Prime Minister to request an Article 50 extension to 31 January 2020 if MPs have not approved either a Brexit deal or a no deal Brexit by 19 October 2019. The Bill finished its final stages of debate in the House of Lords on Friday afternoon and is expected to receive Royal Assent today.
The Bill only came before Parliament after opposition parties (excluding the DUP) and a number of Conservatives opposed to no deal voted to take control of the House of Commons order paper. The 21 Conservative MPs who voted against the Government had the Conservative whip withdrawn.
An early general election?
Following the Government’s defeat on 3 September, the Prime Minister tabled a motion seeking to trigger an early general election. The motion failed to receive the level of support (434 MPs) required under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act after Labour and other opposition parties opposed to no deal refused to back an early election until the anti no deal legislation received Royal Assent.
An attempt to ‘filibuster’ the Bill in the Lords was called off in the early hours of 5 September after an agreement was reached between the Government and opposition parties to allow it to pass all its Lords stages before the end of Friday - with the Government hoping that this will unlock opposition support for a general election on 15 October.
Today MPs are due to debate another motion proposing an early general election, however opposition parties agreed on 6 September that they would block an election taking place before an Article 50 extension has been secured, meaning that today’s motion is also set to fail to reach the threshold of 434 MPs. Opposition parties were said to be wary of an October election allowing Boris Johnson to use any majority he won at that election to deliver a no deal Brexit on 31 October. Accordingly, an autumn election is now unlikely to take place before late November.
Parliament is due to be prorogued (suspended) tomorrow and will not return until the Queen’s Speech on 14 October. Number 10’s response to last week’s setbacks are still being considered. With the Prime Minister saying in a speech last Thursday that he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than extend Article 50, options reportedly under consideration include ignoring the law or the Prime Minister resigning ahead of the 19 October deadline and forcing Jeremy Corbyn as PM to apply for an extension, after which the Conservatives would as the main opposition party seek to trigger an election by tabling a motion of no confidence in the new government
We’re in unchartered waters when it comes to Parliament at the moment, and with no one yet knowing what the Government’s next steps will be, it’s impossible to analyse its impact on the insurance industry with any certainty. The MoJ’s official stance remains that the whiplash reforms will still be ready for testing in mid-November, with any updates on that position hopefully being revealed at the stakeholder events they are holding in London and Manchester this week.
If an early general election is called, triggering purdah, there is potential for the Government’s response to the Fixed Recoverable Costs consultation to be delayed, but even this isn’t definite as so long as the consultation doesn’t compete with parliamentary candidates for the public’s attention, it should be allowed to go ahead.