Is the country going to the polls now inevitable?
First Brexit, now a possible General Election: will Parliament ever get back to its legislative day-job?
Against some stiff competition, this week has arguably been the most chaotic for Brexit in Parliament so far.
After the excitement of Parliament sitting on a Saturday turned out to be misplaced, Parliament did actually witness history three days later, when a Government Brexit deal passed through a parliamentary legislative stage of any significance for the first time.
However, the brief sense of expectation that Brexit might happen by the 31st October was then quashed when a bill proposing an accelerated timetable for the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) to be passed through parliament was rejected.
The upshot of all this is that the Prime Minister has sought yet another Brexit extension in order to give Parliament enough time to scrutinise the appropriate laws. Whether this delay is the 15-30 days supported by President Macron of France and a number of EU ambassadors, or the 3-month extension preferred by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, remains to be seen.
Perhaps more importantly, the Government has signalled that it will attempt to pass a motion calling for a General Election to take place on 12 December.
As always, the main question on everyone’s lips is “what next”?
In Brexit terms, 3 scenarios now confront the government: It secures a short extension of weeks, it secures a long extension of months, or it secures no extension and no-deal Brexit will occur on the 31st October.
Closer to home, the Government has also brought forward a motion for a General Election to be held on 12 December, which MPs will vote upon on Monday.
If passed, this motion has numerous knock-on effects for the legislative timetable (and the whiplash reforms that are dependent upon statutory instruments for implementation). Assuming a General Election is called, Parliament would cease for 17 to 25 days before the election date as MPs go into campaigning mode. This dent in Parliamentary time is increased by the inevitable pomp and circumstance of a new Government coming in, ministerial appointments being made and committees being reshaped, reducing further still the focus on other legislative areas.
This also means that the UK will enter a period of “purdah”. This is the pre-election period during which no Government announcements of any political significance can take place. For insurers, it would mean that communication from the MoJ and the MIB (as the Litigant in Person Portal’s delivery partner) insofar as the whiplash reforms are concerned would cease until a new Government is formed. The MoJ and MIB have been very clear that they will be unable to continue the current levels of communication to stakeholders during purdah.
Another potential issue to bear in mind for implementation planning…watch this space!