I will wrap this blog up now.
The first Commons session since parliament was prorogued by prime minister Boris Johnson with the intention to keep it suspended for 5 weeks on September 9 was as intense as anticipated.
Furious MPs confronted the PM, after the Supreme Court had found that the suspension had been “unlawful”.
- Boris Johnson and Jacob-Rees Mogg told MPs repeatedly that they believe the Supreme Court verdict to be “wrong”.
- Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn called for the PM’s resignation and Plaid Cymru for his impeachment.
- The PM mocked the opposition for voting against a general election and No 10 Downing Street challenged them to table a motion of no confidence tonight or “shut up”. Tory MPs reacted with standing ovations to the PM’s attack on the opposition front bench - which is, strictly speaking, forbidden in the Commons.
- Widespread condemnation erupted after Boris Johnson shrugged off emotional comments by an MP about the murder of remain-campaigner and Labour MP Jo Cox with the word “humbug”; shortly after, the PM said Cox was best remembered by getting Brexit done, which further fuelled the outrage.
- Various MPs and pundits clamoured for the elimination of inflammatory language in parliament, and pointed out examples where such language has incited violence and endangered MPS and their families.
- The shadow Brexit secretary Matthew Pennycook has resigned, citing his wish to campaign full time for remain in a second referendum and the imminent birth of his second child as factors.
- Jacob Rees-Mogg said he would be making an “exciting announcement” in the Commons tomorrow.
That’s everything from me, goodnight.
This from the Mail on Sunday’s Dan Hodges:
And this from Tory MP Tobias Ellwood:
The sentiment that the increasingly irresponsible use of hazardous language is endangering MPs, judges and democracy itself has pervaded the evening and is even being uttered by Tory MPs now, here by cabinet minister Nicky Morgan:
Here my colleagues Heather Stewart and Kate Proctor with a summary of tonight’s Commons debate.
Boris Johnson addresses MPs after supreme court ruling and clashes with Corbyn – video
What a night it’s been.
Dominic Grieve told Peston he found the PM “terrifying” tonight, who received standing ovations from Conservative MPs for what Grieve describes as “total populism”.
Here a reaction from the former Labour leader Ed Miliband:
The Commons session has now been adjourned.
Boris Johnson has given ITV’s Peston a pre-recorded interview, which has aired at 10:45pm.
Here some excerpts from the transcript:
Boris Johnson: “60 days ago, nobody said that we could change the withdrawal agreement in the EU Treaty”
Robert Peston: “But you haven’t changed it”
BJ: “Nobody said everybody – on the contrary…Everybody around the EU. Now accepts that it must be changed”
RB: “But it may be changed. It hasn’t happened.”
BJ: “Nobody said that we could change the, uh, the backstop that is,”
RP: “But has it been done?”
BJ: “That is now under serious negotiation.”
RP: “t’s under discussion but when I talk to people in European capitals. They are very sceptical. You’ll get anything like what you want.”
BJ: “Well, it is certainly true, Robert, that uh, the British negotiating position has been undermined by the so-called surrender bill. Well not ‘so called’ It is a surrender bill. Uh, the, the, the bill that says that we’d have to rule out no deal. They’ve tried to wreck our negotiating position, but we’re not going to let them do it,
We’re going to get on and negotiate a deal if we possibly can. And if we can’t get up to you, then we’re going to come out of the EU on October the 31st come what may.”
RP: “But you did say something that I thought was very interesting to MPs, which is, that you believe now that EU are agreeing to some mechanism. You’ve got it, the principle of consent whereby whatever arrangements, if any arrangements to replace the backstop are agreed, they will be a way for Northern Ireland to get out of those arrangements. How would that work?”
BJ: “Well, I mean, this is, this is kind of where the rubber is hitting the road. Okay. The, the, the, the, the problem with the backstop is, is it, it’s the, it’s the arrangement, right?
Exactly. It’s the arrangement that keeps the UK locked in the, uh, EU’s legal order, the customs union and the single market with the EU having the say about our ability to exit. That’s the problem with it. And it’s just never going to go through the House of Commons. So we need to get rid of that.
RP: “But do you get any sense, you were saying to some MPs that you think the EU will move on that. Genuinely?”
BJ: “Yes, I do. And they already genuinely have moved in the sense that they’re willing to consider other ways that allow us to work with our Irish friends to accomplish several things. Number one, we need to avoid any kind of border checks.”
RP: “...the attorney general said today that you would abide by the so called Benn act, which says if you can’t get a deal, you’ve got to write to the EU requesting an extension. So you’re going to write this letter, are you?
BJ: “Well we’re going to go for a deal”
RP: “No! No! He said you would abide by this law, that means you would have to write the letter if there is no deal?”
BJ: “That of course only kicks in. If we fail to get a deal”
RP: “But you’re conceding there’s a reasonable prospect you’re not going to get a deal.”
BJ: “And under these circumstances, what I can say to you is that we will respect the law and we will come out on October the 31st”
RP: “But those two statements, many would say are completely incompatible”
BJ: “Well we will respect the law and we will come out on October 31st”
BJ: “Well. Obviously we’ve got some, some tough negotiations ahead and if you’ll forgive me, I don’t want to tip the hand of the UK government more than parliament is already required us to do so
RP: “The only reason I have the pleasure of seeing you here today is because you had to come back [inaudible]”
BJ: “No I was coming back anyway”
RP: [inaudible] many hours earlier than you would have expected.
BJ: “I fulfilled my commitments in New York.”
Rees-Mogg just promised “an exciting announcement” for tomorrow, and paraphrased the PM’s infamous “what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander” line - which originally referred to equal treatment of the Tory MPs who might vote down a new deal and the Tory rebels who lost their whip for defying the government a few weeks ago.
And here an interesting comment from Tim Bale, politics professor at Queen Mary, University of London:
While a somewhat deflated debate rumbles on about the PM’s conduct tonight and around the prorogation, I’m turning my attention briefly to this from Sky’s Beth Rigby:
Rees-Mogg now responds to a question by the shadow leader of the house Valerie Vaz, who quoted Rees-Mogg’s alleged remark about the Supreme Court ruling representing a “constitutional coup”. Rees-Mogg says this quote was attributed to him after a cabinet meeting, and that cabinet meetings are meant to be confidential, to much laughter.
He says it’s a reasonable thing to disagree with somebody while also respecting them, like it is the case with himself and Bercow, and repeats the PM’s stance that he believes the judgment was “wrong”.
This is what’s on tomorrow’s Common’s agenda:
Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Leader of the House, is now making his business statement.
He opens by picking up the topic of the evening: Language that can have dire consequences for members of the house and their families. Says while he personally has only been subjected to “minor” affronts, incidents relating to other members have been more severe.
A short while ago, Jeremy Cobyn called on the Speaker to get the leaders of all parties to issue a joint declaration “opposing any form of abusive language or threats”.
Rees-Mogg then congratulates Bercow for sitting in his chair for more than 10 hours.
Amidst the turmoil in parliament tonight, the Brexit shadow secretary, Matthew Pennycook MP, has resigned, citing his desire to focus his efforts on campaigning “unequivocally” for remain in a second referendum and the imminent arrival of his second child.
Anna Soubry is now speaking, again making the point that the use of inflammatory language in politics is vitally important to reflect on. She words such as “traitor”, “surrender” and “treason” are dangerous if deployed by politicians, and that the fact that MPs and their families are getting death threats because of such language could have grave consequences for parliamentary democracy.
Boris Johnson has now left the chambers, which has caused some opposition MPs to complain to the Speaker.
Bercow asked Johnson to stay and “sit down” on his way out, and told him it would be “courteous”, for him to stay, but then says he has been in the Commons for many hours and answered many, at times repetitive, questions, and that he does not think that the PM’s departure represents a breech of the stipulations set out by the Supreme Court ruling.
This from Brendan Cox, Jo Cox’ widower, on the PM’s remarks about his late wife tonight:
Boris Johnson is now answering questions from a half empty chambers, more than 3 hours after he first appeared at the despatch box to address the Commons.
Speaker John Bercow seems not bothered.
“The hour is still quite early,” he just told MPs.
Lib Dem MP Wera Hobhouse made Johnson a rather extraordinary offer in the Commons.
She said she will vote for his new deal, with the proviso that he promises to let the people make the ultimate decision in a second referendum.
This, she said, would “guarantee him” a majority.
Johnson’s response is that this remark shows the Lib Dems can’t be trusted, as party leader Jo Swinson pledged to revoke article 50 and scrap Brexit altogether.
Here a video of Paula Sherriff’s emotional speech about her friend Jo Cox, the Labour MP who was fatally shot and stabbed in June 2016 by a far-right extremist in the run up to the Brexit referendum. Cox was a passionate remain campaigner. Johnson’s response of “Humbug” to Sherriff’s speech is also being condemned.
This from Channel 4’s Ciaran Jenkins:
And this from the Spectator’s Isabel Hardman:
Outrage about the PM’s earlier suggestion that the best way to honour the murdered MP Jo Cox is to get Brexit done is widespread and growing.
Here Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon:
The Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson:
And this from Labour’s Jess Phillips:
Just a little reminder that it’s worth refreshing the blog every once in a while, as sometimes posts are added to or changed.
And here a true nugget of gold, courtesy of Boris Johnson, here reported by the Independent’s John Rentoul:
Boris Johnson just said, when pressed on whether he’ll go for a second prorogation, that the government will look closely at the provisions in the Supreme Court judgment to find a way forward.
If you thought parliament gave Theresa May a tough time, tune in and watch the sheer rage Boris Johnson is at the receiving end of tonight.
This from Labour MP Bridget Phillipson:
This from Labour’s Angela Rayner:
This from Green MP Caroline Lucas:
And this from my colleague Marina Hyde on tonight’s backlash against the PM’s tone:
Johnson: Best way to honour Jo Cox is to get Brexit done
Johnson just said in the Commons that the best way of honouring the memory of Jo Cox and of bringing this country together is to get Brexit done. The atmosphere is still very charged, with a number of emotional speeches and pleas from MPs having taken place in the last half hour, with many addressing the distasteful tone in which much of the debate is being delivered. At some point, Johnson sounded like a father telling his distressed children that all will be well in the end, in a low, soft voice after many minutes of shouting and booing.
This is the statement Lammy is referring to in the post below, here reported by the BBC’s Nick Eardley:
This from Labour MP David Lammy, on Downing Street’s announcement a little while ago that a second prorogation could be on the cards if the opposition does not table a no confidence vote tonight:
And this from the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg on the scenes that have played out in the Commons over the last hour or so.
This is a point well worth noting, in the words of SkyNews’ Lewis Goodall:
Labour MP Paula Sherriff just had a withering, tearful outburst in the Commons, saying Johnson should be “ashamed” of his conduct and that MPs had been threatened and put in danger, and should enjoy more respect from the prime minister. Sherriff reminded MPs of her friend Jo Cox’s fate, who was murdered by an extremist for standing publicly by her beliefs.
The PM rebuffed her remarks with blunt indifference.
This from the HuffPost’s Paul Waugh:
Justine Greening, who had the Conservative whip removed on 3 September and now sits as an independent politician, is now asking the PM whether, if he brings a deal back to the Commons and, if it is rejected, he will respect it.
She asks also whether he will respect the Benn bill and ask for an extension. She adds that it is “deeply disrespectful” of the PM to continue to call the Benn bill “surrender bill”.
Johnson responds by saying the “surrender act” has done great damage to what the government is trying to do, a clear and direct provocation. Adds that there will not be another extension.
The mood dips after this, with an almost eerie momentary silence falling over the Commons.
PM guarantees to put any Brexit deal to MPs
Asked by Conservative MP Victoria Prentis whether he is working hard for a Brexit deal and whether MPs will have the opportunity to vote on another deal, Johnson responds:
“I can absolutely guarantee that if and when we are able to bring back an agreement that I think will work for this house and this country on October 17 and 18, of course we will put it to parliament and I do hope it will then get assent.”
Johnson should be impeached – Plaid Cymru
Following the PM’s statement, Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader, Liz Saville Roberts MP, has called on the prime minister to be impeached for misleading the public about his attempted shut down of parliament.
Roberts reminded Johnson that he had supported current Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price’s motion seeking to impeach Tony Blair in 2004 for lying about the Iraq war. The process of impeachment would involve the House of Commons first voting on an impeachment motion, which, if passed, could lead to prosecution and trial. Historically trials have taken place in Westminster Hall, on the parliamentary estate.
Saville Roberts asked the PM:
The prime minister is surely not a man who would like to look inconsistent. So, I ask him: does he still believe it to be right and proper to seek to impeach a prime minister who has been judged to mislead the public?
Anna Soubry, the leader of the Independent Group for Change, calls on Johnson to apologise to parliament and to the Queen.
The PM responds by bringing up John’s Major’s previous proroguing of parliament for 18 days, and adds that parliament still has enough time to debate Brexit and always had enough time.
Labour’s Jess Phillips says the biggest difference between her and the PM is that she’d be ashamed if the Labour party was responsible for the current mess.
She joins the chorus of MPs calling on Johnson to show remorse, apologise, and be honest.
This from the Labour MP Toby Perkins:
Yvette Cooper was next up, and brought up the incongruence between the attorney general’s concession from earlier that the government “got it wrong” in relation to prorogation of parliament, and the PM’s statement in the Commons a little while ago, in which he told MPs that the supreme court judgment was wrong.
Johnson responded by restating that the judgment “was wrong”.
The Lib Dem leader, Jo Swinson, weighed in shortly after, and reminded the PM that “actions have consequences”.
“Even my five-year-old knows that if you do something wrong you have to say sorry,” she said.
Added that if her son can apologise for kicking a football indoors, the prime minster can have the humility to say sorry for “misleading the Queen and illegally shutting down” democracy.
Jeremy Hunt told Boris Johnson that he’s glad he’s not PM. He said that a large proportion of people are being “alienated” by attempts to block Brexit.
Hello everyone, I’m taking over from my colleague Andrew Sparrow now.
Ian Blackford, parliamentary leader of the SNP, is not beating around the bush tonight. “Has he no shame?” he asked about Boris Johnson in his speech in the Commons a little while ago.
Blackford said Johnson accuses MPs of running off to the courts, but has no reasonable justification for his actions, and called it “devastating” for a PM to have such judgment. That’s not leadership, he said.
He added that Johnson’s language was “despicable” and unsuitable for a PM, and that he is no longer tenable. He said the PM sought to silence parliament and fought the law, but the law won.
“The opposition must unite to trigger a vote of no confidence to bring this chaotic government down,” Blackford said.
He reiterated that the SNP’s priority is stopping no deal, and that doing nothing is no option anymore. The PM’s “time must be up”, he said.
The Speaker, John Bercow, reminded Blackford that he must not call on the prime minister to “end his lying”. Blackford conceded.
Boris Johnson's opening statement to MPs - Snap verdict and summary
Earlier, when Geoffrey Cox, the attorney general, was under pressure during questions, he retaliated with a blistering, offensive broadside about parliament, dismissing it as “dead” and having “no moral right to sit”. (See 12.21pm.) MPs have a perfect right to sit because they were elected, just two years ago, but no matter. A few hours later Boris Johnson chose exactly the same hyper-aggressive approach. Having been found to have acted unlawfully by the supreme court, some humility might have been expected. But instead Johnson sounded utterly unrepentant, and instead his speech amounted highly-charged, after-dinner rant about Labour and the rest of the opposition, whom he accused of blocking Brexit.
Tory MPs loved it. And if the Number 10 strategy at the moment is all about depicting Johnson as a tribune of the Brexit-loving masses, taking on the courts and parliament, perhaps at one point, when the election comes, it will work.
But what was striking was that this appears to be about the only strategy Johnson has. Today Johnson had absolutely nothing to say about his Brexit negotiating strategy and he had absolutely nothing to say about his strategy for getting legislation through parliament. Jeremy Corbyn said the speech amounted to “10 minutes of bluster”, and he was right. All the alpha-male belligerent bravado was cover for the fact that the PM seems to be running out of options.
Here are the main points.
- Johnson challenged the opposition parties to call a vote of no confidence if they want a general election. He said he would make time for a motion tabled by a minor opposition party, not just Labour, to be debated. But the opposition parties want a guarantee that there will not be a no-deal Brexit on 31 October first, and so it is hard to see this offer being taken up.
- Johnson accused the opposition of being afraid of facing the public. This was undemocratic, he claimed. He said:
It’s not just that this parliament is in gridlock, paralysed and refusing to deliver the priorities of the people. It’s not just unable to move forward. It’s worse than that – out of sheer selfishness and political cowardice members opposite are unwilling to move aside and give the people a say.
- He said he wanted to offer voters a “life after Brexit”. He said:
The public don’t want another referendum – what they want and what they demand, is that we honour the promise we made to the voters to respect the first referendum. And they also want us to move on – to put Brexit behind us and focus on the NHS, on violent crime and on cutting the cost of living. That is why I also brought forward a Queen’s speech. My government intends to present a programme for life after Brexit.
- He said that he thought the supreme court decision was wrong.
- Corbyn renewed his call for Johnson should resign. He opened his statement saying:
I thank the prime minister for advance copy of his statement. Unfortunately it was like his illegal prorogation of parliament: null, of no effect, and should be quashed.
This was 10 minutes of bluster from a dangerous prime minister who thinks he is above the law, but in truth is not fit for the office he holds.
- Corbyn said Labour would be happy to back an election as soon as Johnson agreed to extend article 50.
That’s all from me for tonight.
My colleague Jedidajah Otte is taking over now.
Johnson is replying to Corbyn.
He says he does respect the supreme court.
On the subject of the Benn Act, he says he will respect the law and come out of the EU on 31 October.
He says preparations for a no-deal Brexit are going well.
He says there is progress in the Brexit talks. But he says it has not been made any easier by the opposition, and the “surrender bill” (his term for the Benn Act).
He says he is sorry the Labour conference is over. He says he would have liked people to have heard more of Labour policies like abolishing private schools.
Johnson says he has heard that Corbyn wanted to announce an election in his conference speech. But he was censored by the “Stasi” in Labour, in the form of John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, he says. He says Corbyn is being held hostage by his party. “Free the Islington One,” he says.
He says: “This parliament must either stand aside and either let this government get Brexit done or bring a vote of confidence and finally face a day of reckoning with the voters.”
As he ends he gets a prolonged round of applause from Conservative MPs. This is unusual. MPs are not supposed to applaud, and when MPs do break the rules, it is more often SNP and Labour MPs who clap than Tories.
Corbyn says he will back an election as soon as Johnson agrees Brexit extension
Corbyn says, for the good of the country, Johnson should go.
He says he wants an election. And Johnson wants an election. Corbyn ends:
If he wants an election, get an extension and let’s have an election.
Corbyn says Johnson also has questions to ask about his conduct in public office.
He says the culture department is reviewing the awarding of a grant to a company run by his friend.
Did Johnson initiate that review? Will he report himself to the Cabinet Office for investigation.
Here is the Guardian’s latest story on this, from my colleagues Rajeev Syal and Matthew Weaver.
Corbyn says the Operation Yellowhammer document shows why a no-deal Brexit would be so serious.
Why did the government describe these documents when they were leaked as out-of-date? When it was published, it was exactly the same?
Corbyn says it talks of people going of without food and medicine.
He says Johnson has hardly put any progress into the Brexit talks. Any progress has been minimal. Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, said there had been very little support.
Corbyn says he has some questions for Johnson.
Does Johnson think the government got it wrong, or does he agree with Jacob Rees-Mogg that the supreme court committed a “constitutional coup”.
Can Johnson confirm that he will abide by the terms of the Benn Act?
Corbyn says Johnson's statement was 'null, of no effect and should be quashed'
Jeremy Corbyn is responding to Johnson now.
He says Johnson’s statement was similar to what the supreme court said about prorogation - “null, of no effect, and should be quashed”.
He says this is an extraordinary and precarious moment in this country’s history.
The highest court in the land found that the PM broke the law, he says.
He says the judges concluded there was no reason, let alone a good reason, for the PM to have shut down parliament.
He says Johnson should have done the right thing and resigned afterwards.
But instead he is here, with no shred of humility and no substance either.
Boris Johnson tells Labour it has until end of day to table vote of no confidence
Johnson says Labour has until the house rises today to table a motion of no confidence. If it does that, it can have the vote tomorrow.
And he uses the line flagged up earlier about being willing to make the time for a confidence vote if the other opposition parties want to table a no confidence motion.
Johnson ends by saying it is time to get Brexit done.
He wants to deal with the people’s priorities, like the NHS.
He says parliament decided to hold this referendum. It should either get this done or face the voters.
Johnson says the opposition parties had a remedy at their disposal.
He says the opposition parties could have voted for an election.
In Brighton Labour members demanded one - even though they twice voted against it.
He says Jeremy Corbyn keeps changing his mind. He does not know whether John McDonnell has forced him to change his mind.
He asks if Corbyn will vote no confidence in Johnson as PM.
He asks if Corbyn even wants to be PM.
He says Corbyn wants him to go to Brussels on 17 October to negotiate a delay. But Corbyn won’t go himself. And even if he did want to go, his colleagues would not let him, because they don’t want him negotiating for Britain with people like Vladimir Putin.
Johnson says some MPs have been going to the courts to block Brexit.
He says it is no disrespect to say that while he respects the supreme court, he thinks its decision was wrong.
He says decisions about prorogation are political matters.
He says the Labour party is determined to say it knows best, and to thumb its noses at the people.
Jeremy Corbyn and his party do not trust the people, he says.
He says they do not care about the extra cost of staying in.
And they do not care about Brexit being delayed for months, he says.
He says he wants to move up a gear. But Labour wants to put on the handbrake.
He says he will not betray the people.
Johnson says he wants to show public there is 'life after Brexit'
Johnson says he wants to show the public there is “life after Brexit”.
That is why he wants a Queen’s speech, so he can show his domestic programme.
Johnson says the opposition parties are promising a second referendum.
But the idea that there could be a second referendum, with people respecting the result, is a fantasy, he says.
He says the public do not want a second referendum. They want the first one honoured, he says.
Boris Johnson's statement to MPs
Boris Johnson is making his statement now.
He says the British people just want Brexit done.
He says he has been making progress in the Brexit talks with the EU.
Raab says it is 'wrong' to say UK thinking of sending troops to Saudi Arabia
In his speech to the Labour conference yesterday Jeremy Corbyn accused Boris Johnson of planning to send troops to Saudia Arabia. He told delegates:
It really beggars belief that this week Boris Johnson is openly talking about sending troops to Saudi Arabia as part of the increasingly dangerous confrontation between Saudi Arabia and Iran, in an apparent bid to appease Donald Trump. Have we learned nothing?
In the Commons a few minutes ago, in a statement on Iran, Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary, repeated the same point, saying that Johnson was “openly talking about sending troops to Saudia Arabia in an apparent bid to please Donald Trump”. She asked for an assurance that, if troops were going to be sent to the Gulf for military action, that the Commons would get a vote.
Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, claimed that there were no such plans. Responding to Thornberry, he said:
[Thornberry] talked whether the UK would be sending troops to Saudia Arabia. There has been no suggestion of that at all. It is simply wrong for her to say it. What has been said is that the US is sending troops to Saudi Arabia to make sure that Saudi can protect itself from further attacks, or repeats of the attacks Aramco.
We have said that we would consider a request that we’ve received for support in relation to air defences. That is something that we will consider. But we are absolutely clear that our over-arching strategic objective is deescalation, reducing tensions. And we want to see Iran come in from out of the international cold. But we need to be absolutely unwavering and clear in our resolve that the only way that will happen is if Iran steps up and starts to meet its responsibilities.
The suggestion that the UK was considering sending troops to Saudia Arabia, emerged from what Boris Johnson said when he spoke to reporters on his flight to New York recently, although the headlines about troops being despatched (see here and here) did not necessarily match what was actually being proposed.
Boris Johnson expected to challenge opposition parties to table no-confidence motion
According to a leak of what Boris Johnson is due to say in his statement to MPs shortly, he will challenge the opposition parties to table a motion of no confidence in the government. This is from the Press & Journal’s Dan O’Donoghue.
Under current parliamentary rules only a motion of no confidence tabled by the leader of the opposition has to be debated. Jeremy Corbyn says he will only do that when he is sure he can win, and when he has absolutely guaranteed that there will not be a no-deal Brexit on 31 October.
Johnson seems to be planning to say that, if the Lib Dems or the SNP tabled a no confidence motion, he would make time for it to be debated. But all the opposition parties are agreed at the moment that they want an absolute guarantee that there will not be a no-deal Brexit first.
My colleague Heather Stewart has more on the plans for a vote tomorrow on a mini-recess to allow Tory MPs to attend their party conference in Manchester.
From the BBC’s Nick Eardley
John Bercow, the Speaker, has just confirmed that he wants Boris Johnson’s statement to MPs to start at 6.30pm.
Labour MPs told to be expect vote tomorrow on government plan for mini recess for Tory conference
This is from Sky’s Aubrey Allegretti. He says Labour MPs have been told to expect a vote on a conference recess tomorrow.
The Tories want to go ahead with a recess so that they can hold their party conference in Manchester. Jeremy Corbyn said this morning that Labour was not in favour of agreeing a recess motion, although Diane Abbott, the shadow home secretary, suggested the party might offer some flexibility. See 9.46am. According to the FT’s Jim Pickard, Labour suggested that one compromise might be for the Commons to sit next week, but with no contentious legislation scheduled for early in the week. The government does not seem to have accepted the offer.
My colleague Gwyn Topham has a wonderful story on the Grant Shapps Thomas Cook statement earlier. This is how it starts.
If there was a previous transport secretary that the incumbent, Grant Shapps, might hope not to imitate, it would surely be his notoriously calamity-stricken predecessor Chris Grayling.
But just a few months after his return to cabinet after several years out in the cold, Shapps appears to have followed Grayling’s example rather too closely – lifting sections of his speech to the House of Commons on the collapse of Thomas Cook from Grayling’s equivalent statement when Monarch Airlines went bust in 2017.
At the beginning of his statement, Shapps appears to have followed Grayling’s text almost to the letter, simply substituting Thomas Cook for Monarch and adjusting numbers. “With your permission, I would like to make a statement about the steps the government have been taking to support those affected by the collapse of
Monarch Airlines,Thomas Cook, in particular the 110,000150,000 passengers left abroad without a flight back to the UK and the almost 2,0009,000 people who have lost their jobs.”
And here is the full story.
From the Daily Mirror’s Pippa Crerar
In the Commons Labour’s Justin Madders asks Gove if he has any plans to use the Civil Contingencies Act in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Gove says he has no plans to use it.
His statement is now over. John Bercow, the Speaker, says 87 backbenchers were able to ask questions.
The Gove statement is still going on – although the length of the statement is in inverse proportion to the quantity of information being revealed. Gove is doing a very professional job of sidestepping the awkward questions.
We have got a statement on Iran from the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, to come next. All this means that it will probably be 6.30pm at the earliest before Boris Johnson starts his statement.
In response to a question from the independent MP John Woodcock, Gove says it is impossible to tell if the food bill for an average low-income family will go up or down after Brexit.
Antoinette Sandbach, the former Tory now sitting as an independent, asks Gove if the government will now publish all version of the Operation Yellowhammer documents, as it is supposed to under the terms of the “humble address” motion.
Gove does not give that commitment. He just says the government is publishing a lot of detail about its no-deal planning.
Brexit minister refuses to rule out PM requesting extension under Benn Act but also trying to get EU to say no
Responding to a private notice question in the Lords on the extension of article 50, Lord Callanan, minister of state for exiting the European Union, repeated again and again that the government would always “abide by the law”, but refused to be drawn on whether they would seek to find a loophole in the Benn Act.
He was asked repeatedly about quotes from a Number 10 spokesperson that the government could send a second letter – along with the letter requesting an extension as mandated in the Benn Act – which sought to dissuade the EU from granting a delay.
“The government will of course abide by the law,” he said, in response to a question by Labour’s Lady Hayter of Kentish Town.
Lord Cormack, a Conservative, followed up: “Can I ask my noble friend to confirm that in the unhappy event, and for me it would be an unhappy event, that no deal is reached by 31 October, that the prime minister will abide by the law that parliament has passed?”
“I am happy to confirm to the noble Lord the answer that I gave earlier: the government will abide by the law,” said Callanan.
Labour’s Lord Harris of Haringey said Callanan hadn’t answered the question. He went on:
We of course assume that the government will abide by the law. But the question was about [whether] a second letter would be sent saying to the EU ‘please don’t accept our request’. Can he give a categorical assurance that the government will not do that and will not seek to go around the wording of the law which was passed by this house.
I can give the noble lord a categorical assurance that the government will abide by the law. We write all sorts of letters to all sorts of people, all of the time. I’m sure letter-writing will continue even in no deal. And I can go no further that to repeat what I’ve said which is of course we are a law-abiding government.
Earlier Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, told the Commons that the automative industry was ready for a no-deal Brexit.
As the BBC’s Faisal Islam points out that, that is not what the industry’s trade body, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said this week.
Labour’s Owen Smith asks Gove if he can assure police officers in Northern Ireland will not be asked to patrol the Irish border, putting their lives at risk.
Gove says the government has “absolutely no intention” of putting infrastructure at or near the border that might have to be policed.
Dominic Grieve, the former Tory attorney general, asks when the phrase “base case” in the Operation Yellowhammer document was changed to “worst case”. And he says, as chair of the intelligence and security committee, he wants to know what the mitigations are that will replace having access to the Schengen database.
Gove explains the difference between base case (agreed outcomes) and worst case, but he does not say when the wording was changed. And he refuses to say what the alternatives to the Schengen database will be.
Yvette Cooper, the Labour chair of the home affairs committee, says even if Border Force officers get new powers, they will not have the information they need to check people in the event of a no-deal Brexit. She asks Gove why he is claiming the UK would be safer.
Gove says she has questioned people involved in national security and the Border Force. “Appropriate mitigations are in place,” he says, and new powers are available.
Sir David Lidington, the former Cabinet Office minister, asks what will happen in Northern Ireland if there is a no-deal Brexit. How will the civil service be able to manage if there is no functioning executive.
Gove says if there is still no power-sharing executive in Northern Ireland, the government would have to consider giving new powers to Northern Ireland civil service. That is because, under no deal, the civil servants running Northern Ireland would need to take decisions (in relation to matters like customs) going beyond the powers they currently have.
Tom Brake, the Lib Dem Brexit spokesman, asks how Britain will be safer than before when the police will not have access to EU crime and justice databases in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Because Border Force staff will have new powers, says Gove.
Damian Green, the former first secretary of state, asks if hauliers have done what is necessary to prepare for a no-deal Brexit. Green represents Ashford in Kent.
Gove says the government is contacting hauliers. But further steps need to be taken.
Gove is responding to Starmer.
He starts by welcoming Starmer back from Brighton, saying one thing about the House of Commons is that at least they record votes properly. That’s a reference to Labour deciding its new Brexit policy on a show of hands, despite calls for a card vote.
Gove repeats his point about the withdrawal agreement now being “in play” in the negotiations. And he says business is preparing for Brexit.
But Gove spends most of his time criticising Labour, and he ends by saying Jeremy Corbyn’s Brexit policy is “as solid as a blancmange in a hurricane”.
Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, is responding to Gove now.
He asks Gove to confirm that the four papers submitted to the EU about alternatives to the backstop are “non-papers”. And is it right they have not been shared with the EU27?
Starmer says he does not accept that businesses are well prepared. He sat with business leaders last week, and their main concern was about how ill-prepared businesses were.
He asks about the Commons vote earlier this month requiring the publication of all the Operation Yellowhammer documents. He says the government just published a short document (pdf). Nothing else has been disclosed.
Gove claimed it was a document from the last government. But it was dated 2 August, when Boris Johnson was PM, Starmer says
Gove claimed on the Marr Show was that this was an old document, and the worst-case scenario. Gove also claimed it was being updated, Starmer says.
He asks Gove to explain why, when it was leaked to the Sunday Times, it said it was a base case scenario. But when it was published it was described as worst-case scenario.
Referring to Gove’s comment on LBC this morning about Boris Johnson being a “born winner” (see 11am), Starmer says he is glad that Gove has not lost his sense of humour.
He says to leave the country unprepared for a no-deal Brexit is unforgivable.
Michael Gove tells MPs there's been 'significant movement' in Brexit talks with EU
In the Commons Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister in charge of no-deal Brexit planning, is making a statement now.
He says there has been “significant movement in recent weeks” in the the Brexit talks with the EU.
Until recently the withdrawal agreement was sacrosanct. But now they have acknowledged that it can be changed.
And up until this point, the European Union have also said that the backstop was inviolable but again European leaders have said they are ‘not emotionally attached to the backstop’ and there are other ways, other ways, of ensuring that we can safeguard the gains of the Good Friday/Belfast agreement and also ensure that smooth trade flows across the island of Ireland.
He says he wants to talk about no-deal plans.
The cabinet XO (EU exit operations) has met 48 times, he says.
He says under Operation Yellowhammer the government has prepared for worst-case scenarios.
From my colleague Daniel Boffey
From the Spectator’s James Forsyth
One theory is that the PM could resign, oblige the Queen to make Jeremy Corbyn prime minister, defeat the government on a no confidence motion and then wait for the election a few weeks later.
But there are two obvious problems with this tactic.
1) As PM Corbyn would have the authority to request an extension to article 50. That means Boris Johnson would be leading the opposition Tory party into a general election having failed to deliver his key pledge – taking the UK out of the EU by 31 October.
2) Incumbent prime minister have considerable advantages in electoral politics. Even with a government majority, they can exercise power and patronage and spend government money. And for Johnson the danger would be that, after having Corbyn as PM for a few months, the public might decide they like him a lot more.
David Gauke, the former Tory justice secretary who had the whip withdrawn earlier this month after rebelling over Brexit, has called for Dominic Cummings, the PM’s chief of staff, to be sacked. Cummings is blamed for Boris Johnson’s decision to adopt a highly confrontational approach to parliament, including proroguing parliament for five weeks. “I think the prime minister needs a different strategy and a different strategist,” Gauke told the World at One.
A plan is in place to restrict holiday leave for police officers in Northern Ireland following Brexit. As the Press Association reports, a total of 10% of officers will be able to take time off for the first six weeks after the United Kingdom is scheduled to leave the European Union on 31 October. Police Service of Northern Ireland assistant chief constable George Clarke described it in an interview with the PA news agency as a “sensible operational contingency”, adding it would be kept under review.
MPs returning to parliament on Wednesday are discussing plans to force Boris Johnson to request a Brexit extension earlier than the current 19 October deadline, to avoid no deal, my colleague Kate Proctor reports.
In the Commons Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, is making a statement about Thomas Cook. He said that bailing out the company would have involved “throwing good money after bad”, but he said the government would legislate to ensure that in future airlines can be wound down in a more orderly way. He told MPs:
[Firms] need to be able to look after their customers and we need to be able to ensure their planes can keep flying in order that we don’t have to set up a shadow airline. This is where we will focus our efforts in the next couple of weeks. We will require primary legislation, and, dare I say it, a new session of parliament.
While all eyes are on the newly reconvened Commons, the Labour party’s autumn conference is still under way. Members this morning voted overwhelmingly to give full voting rights to all UK residents, urging the party to extend the franchise to millions of migrants.
As well as extending voting rights, the motion tabled by the Labour for Free Movement campaign calls on a future Labour government to close all immigration detention centres, ending “no recourse to public funds” policies, and to seeking to extend free movement rights.
The motion also opposed immigration systems based on a person’s income or “utility to big business” and any caps or targets on the numbers of people moving to the UK.
The fact that a motion passes at the Labour party’s conference does not necessarily mean it will end up in a future general election manifesto, though it contributes to the policy-making process.
Only British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens are able to vote in general elections, while citizens of EU countries can vote in local elections and European elections. Extending the vote to the 3 million EU nationals living in the UK would have a significant impact on any second referendum on the UK’s EU membership.
Ana Oppenheim, from the Labour Campaign for Free Movement and the leftwing pro-EU group Another Europe is Possible, said it was “a source of shame for many activists” that the party’s 2017 manifesto pledged to end free movement. She said:
Now we can move forward not only committed to defending free movement, but to giving migrants the vote. If we win, the next election will be the last election in which people like me are shut out of the democratic process.
Celebrating the success of the motion the Labour Campaign for Free Movement tweeted a photograph of the controversial “Controls on Immigration” mug, which was produced by the Labour party during the 2015 general election campaign. “Now officially in the bin,” the tweet read.
The motion said Labour should campaign for “free movement, equality and rights for migrants”. It also said:
Free movement, equality and rights for migrants, are socialist values and benefit us all.
Confronted with attacks on migrants – from the racist ‘hostile environment’ to the Conservatives’ immigration bill that plans to end free movement and strip the rights of working-class migrants – we stand for solidarity, equality and freedom.
Scapegoating, ending free movement and attacking migrants’ rights are attacks on all workers. They make migrant workers more precarious and vulnerable to hyperexploitation, pressing down wages and conditions for everyone.
They divide us, making it harder to unionise and push back.
At the 2017 election Labour’s manifesto said freedom of movement within the EU would end when the UK ceased to be a member. After Brexit Labour wants a close relationship with the single market, but it has not formally committed to keeping the UK in the single market – a move that would ensure EU free movement continued.
Geoffrey Cox, the attorney general, told MPs earlier that the government would comply with the Benn Act that is intended to stop a no-deal Brexit on 31 October. (See 12.34pm.) But ITV’s political editor Robert Peston has had a message from a government source implying that, although the PM would be willing to write a letter to the EU formally requesting an article 50 extension (in the event of there being no Brexit deal by 19 October), he would also send a second letter containing all sorts of arguments intended to ensure that the EU would say no.
Peston himself is not one of those people inclined to use capital letters in his tweets, and so I’m presuming that the angry, Trump-style capitalisation comes from an original message sent by his source.
Tom Watson, the deputy Labour leader and shadow culture secretary, is speaking now.
He says it is hard to see how the grant to Hacker House was justified. It was awarded under a scheme intended to develop cyber-skills in the UK. But this company is headquartered in California, and its owner lives in the US, he says. And it refuses to say how many employees it has in the UK, or where they work.
Then he turns to Boris Johnson. Watson goes on:
The truth is our prime minister does reckless things. He is a man whose character rends him unfit for the office he holds.
Warman repeats his point about Johnson not being involved in the decision to award the grant to Hacker House. He criticises Watson for raising issues irrelevant to this issue.
Culture minister defends grant to company run by friend of Boris Johnson
In the Commons Matt Warman, the culture minister, is answering an urgent question about the £100,000 grant to Hacker House - a company run by Jennifer Arcuri, a close friend of Boris Johnson’s.
He confirms that Hacker House has had a grant. He says the culture department is reviewing whether this grant was properly awarded.
The Lib Dem MP Layla Moran, who tabled the UQ, says she is not interested in Johnson’s personal life. But she is interested in ensuring that the rules are followed. She says these grants are supposed to go to UK companies, but that this firm does not seem to be genuinely based in the UK. And she asks if Johnson was involved in the award of the grant.
Warman says Johnson and his staff were not involved in the decision to award this grant.
He says Hacker House is registered with Companies House as being based in the UK.
He says he is happy to answer questions about whether this grant was properly awarded. But he says Moran should not be using this issue to “spread tittle-tattle”.
Cox has just finished.
At this rate, Boris Johnson is unlikely to be starting his statement before 5pm.
Cox says government will call another vote on holding early election 'shortly'
Cox has just said that the government will bring forward another motion calling for a general election “shortly”.
It tried twice earlier in the month, but on both occasions failed to get get the support of two-thirds of MPs, as required under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act for an early election to happen.
Phillip Lee, the former Tory MP who defected to the Lib Dems, told Cox he should be showing more humility. He asks him if he can say if he has given Downing Street legal advice on bypassing the Benn Act.
Cox said that he was not allowed to say whether he had given legal advice on a topic or not. But he said Lee was not in a position to urge him to show more humility. Having been elected for one party, and now sitting for another without holding a byelection, Lee should be “on his knees” begging for forgiveness from his constituents, Cox said.
Amber Rudd, the former Tory work and pensions secretary who now sits as an independent having resigned over Brexit, tells Cox she objects to him calling this a “dead” parliament. She says it was only elected in 2017. She says, if it is divided, that is because it reflects the divisions in Britain.
I must raise my concerns about the attorney general constantly saying that this parliament is dead. This parliament was elected in 2017, it reflects the divisions in this country, the divisions in our communities and the divisions in our families.
The failure is that we have not yet reached a compromise, many of us long to leave the EU as we set out in the referendum but are frustrated by the fact that we have not been able to find a consensus amongst the different factions.
If I had not been driven to this language, I would not have used it.
But he was driven to use this language, he says. No one worked harder than he did to get a compromise deal through parliament, he says. He goes on:
I have now reached a sad conclusion that this parliament is no longer worth sitting. It should be gone, for any good it is doing.
What Geoffrey Cox said about parliament being 'a disgrace' with 'no moral right to sit'
Here is a full version of what Geoffrey Cox said about parliament being a “disgrace” with “no moral right to sit”. He was responding to a question from Rory Stewart, the former international development secretary who lost the Tory whip after rebelling over Brexit. Cox said:
I would agree with him that parliament has to determine the terms on which we leave, but this parliament has declined three times to pass a withdrawal act, with which the opposition – in relation to the withdrawal act – had absolutely no objection.
Then we now have a wide number of this house setting its face against leaving at all. And when this government draws the only logical inference from that position, which is that it must leave therefore without any deal at all, it still sets its face, denying the electorate the chance of having its say in how this matter should be resolved.
This parliament is a dead parliament. It should no longer sit. It has no moral right to sit on these green benches ...
They don’t like to hear it Mr Speaker. Twice they have been asked to let the electorate decide upon whether they should be allowed to sit in their seats, while they block 17.4 million people’s vote. This parliament is a disgrace.
Given the opportunity, since I am asked, let me tell them the truth: they could vote no confidence at any time, but they are too cowardly. They could agree to a motion to allow this house to dissolve but they are too cowardly.
This parliament should have the courage to face the electorate. But it won’t, because so many of them are really all about preventing us leaving the European Union at all.
But the time is coming, the time is coming Mr Speaker, when even these turkeys won’t be able to prevent Christmas.
Judicial appointments may have to be approved by MPs as courts become more political, Cox suggests
Cox has just told MPs that in future it might make sense for appointments to the supreme court to be approved by parliament.
In response to a question about whether allowing MPs to confirm judicial appointments would be necessary if the courts became more political, he said MPs might have to “reflect” on that. He said Brexit would mean “we are going to have to look again at our constitutional arrangements”. As the UK left the EU, a “great gap” would open up in the law, he said.
One matter may very well be whether there needs to be parliamentary scrutiny of judicial appointments in some manner.
But Cox said that he personally would not be “enthusiastic” about the idea.
Jacob Rees Mogg, the leader of the House of Commons, is expected to lay out government business this afternoon. He is expected to request a short break for Conservative Party conference - a proposal which Jeremy Corbyn said they could oppose.
The Conservative party has indicated it will continue with conference, scheduled to take place in Manchester from Sunday to Wednesday next week, whatever is decided by Parliament.
James Cleverly, the party’s co-chairman, has Tweeted that it will go ahead.
A debate could be held on any proposed break as early as Thursday. If the government loses that vote, it could give the Conservatives a real headache.
Conference is a highly lucrative event for the party. If a break is not formally supported, it could force Tory ministers and MPs to return from conference events for votes.
One option for the government would be to table non-controversial bills for next week, which would take up most of the day. However, they might still have to return for major votes.
It has also emerged that the government’s opponents in parliament could apply to the high court asking for a civil servant to go to Brussels if Boris Johnson has not brought back a deal by October 19th and refuses to request an article 50 extension.
It is understood that an application would be made at the Royal Courts of Justice to direct a high ranking civil servant, possibly the cabinet secretary Mark Sedwill, to carry out parliament’s duty.
The Queen’s speech, scheduled for October 14, is where the government will set out its agenda and forthcoming priorities.
A vote is scheduled to take place five days later on October 21, where MPs will debate the measures put forward by the government.
Cox says government will comply with Benn Act intended to stop no-deal Brexit on 31 October
Nick Boles, the former Conservative who now sits as an independent, asked Cox if he could give MPs an assurance that the government would abide by the Benn Act in the event of the government not agreeing a Brexit deal. In those circumstances, the act says, the PM must request a three-month Brexit extension.
Cox gave a clear answer: “Yes.”
Twice now Geoffrey Cox has challenged the opposition to agree to back an early general election by backing a one-line bill amending the Fixed-term Parliaments Act and allowing one.
This mechanism could have been used in early September to hold a general election before 31 October. Although Labour said it wanted an early election, it argued that it could not risk this approach because it could not be sure that the PM would not change the date of the election, to hold it after 31 October.
Cox seemed to be implying that the government would back a one-line bill that would specify a particular date for the election. But it is now too late. Under electoral law an election has to take place at least 25 working days after dissolution, and so even if parliament were to pass a law and dissolve today, it would be impossible to hold an election before 31 October.
Cox claims parliament is 'dead' and 'has no moral right to sit'
Attack is the best form of defence, they often say. And Geoffrey Cox, who has faced considerable criticism during this UQ, has just retaliated with remarkable attack on the opposition, and the authority of parliament.
He said that parliament was “dead” and had “no moral right to sit”, but that the opposition were afraid of an election.
This parliament is a dead parliament. It should no longer sit. It has no moral right to sit on these green benches.
This generated an uproar from the opposition. But Cox went on, saying the opposition did not like to hear what he had to say.
Twice MPs have been asked to approve a general election, he said. But they would not allow one, he went on.
This parliament is a disgrace ...
They could vote no confidence at any time. But they are too cowardly ...
This parliament should have the courage to face the electorate. But it won’t because so many of them are about preventing us leaving the European Union. But the time is coming when even these turkeys won’t be able to prevent Christmas.
Here is LBC’s Theo Usherwood on Cox’s answer to Letwin. (See 12.09am.)
Sir Oliver Letwin, the former Tory Cabinet Office minister who lost the whip after rebelling over Brexit earlier this month, asks Cox for an assurance that there will be no further prorogation, other than a short one ahead of a possible Queen’s speech, before the end of October.
Cox says he can assure Letwin that the government will comply with the supreme court judgment.
Labour’s Angela Eagle asks Cox how Jacob Rees-Mogg can stay as leader of the Commons if he has accused the supreme court of a constitutional coup.
Cox says there is “nothing wrong with expressing robust, critical views about a judgment”.
There is nothing wrong with expressing robust critical views about a judgment, in so far as it imputes inappropriate or improper motive then it is wrong.
So, I think it’s a question of wording and of being careful with ones language but I took that remark in so far as I saw it reported simply to be a robust criticism of the judgment and nothing more.
Cox says it is acceptable to be critical of judgments. But it is not acceptable to attack the motives of judges, he says.
Rees-Mogg did not really mean to call court ruling 'constitutional coup', Cox says
Hilary Benn, the Labour chair of the Brexit committee, asked Cox if he agreed that the supreme court ruling was a constitutional coup. (See 10.26am.)
Cox implied that Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the Commons, did not really mean it when he used that phrase. Cox said:
I don’t think it was a constitutional coup ... I don’t think anybody does ... These things can be said in the heat of rhetorical and poetic licence.
In response to a question from Dominic Grieve, a former Tory who now sits as an independent, Cox says he would not have been able to support a decision to prorogue parliament until the end of October. If the PM had proposed that, Cox would have resigned, he suggests.
Nick Thomas-Symonds, the shadow solicitor general, says the supreme court judgment amounts to “the most damning judicial indictment of a government in modern times”.
He says the government “stands shamed – tendering illegal advice to Her Majesty”.
He says the legal advice should be published in full.
And he points out that, although Cox is saying he accepts the supreme court judgment, Michael Gove told the BBC this morning that the government still thought it had done nothing wrong. (See 8.09am.)
He says the government has already been found in contempt of parliament. Now it has been found in contempt of law.
Cox says there is nothing unusual about a lawyer having his opinion rejected by a court.
He says courts in Scotland and in England backed his view. If people think Cox should resign, should the lord chief justice and the master of the rolls (who both said prorogation was lawful) resign too?
He accuses Thomas-Symonds of a “shameless piece of cynical opportunism”.
He says his advice was sound at the time. The supreme court took a different view, he says. He says it was entitled to do that. But it was making new law.
The SNP’s Joanna Cherry told Cox she was not calling for his resignation – yet.
But she asked him if he could confirm what Amber Rudd said – that cabinet ministers asked to see the prorogation legal advice, but that they were not shown it.
In reply, Cox repeated the point he had made about considering what more might be published, but he did not address the point about ministers being denied access to it.
Cox says he will consider publishing more information about prorogation legal advice
Cox says the government does not publish the legal advice it gets.
But he says he would consider over the coming days whether the public interest would be served by his disclosing more information about the advice given to the government in this case.
- Cox says he will consider publishing more information about the legal advice he gave the PM about prorogation.
Geoffrey Cox responds to urgent question about his prorogation legal advice
Geoffrey Cox, the attorney general, is responding to an urgent question from the SNP’s Joanna Cherry about his legal advice regarding prorogation.
Yesterday Sky News ran a story about Cox advising the government that a five-week prorogation would be lawful. It led to Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, saying that Cox should consider his position.
Cox says the government set out its view in a court document published on the supreme court’s website. He says the government thought prorogation was legal.
On the subject of resigning, he says:
If every time I lost a case I was called upon to resign, I would probably have never had a practice.
He says the government accepts the judgment from the supreme court.
At all times the government acted in good faith and in the belief that its approach was both lawful and constitutional.
Bercow says reference to parliament being prorogued will be 'expunged' from official record
John Bercow, the Speaker, is addressing MPs.
He says the official record will be changed so that the reference to parliament being prorogued will be “expunged”. Instead he says it will be recorded that parliament adjourned until today instead.
He thanks the staff of the Commons for allowing it to meet today.
He says there are no ministerial questions today, including no PMQs. That is because three days are normally allowed for MPs to table questions.
Varadkar says EU wants to see UK's alternative backstop plan by end of next week
The UK must table written proposals to solve the Irish border Brexit question within the next week, Leo Varadkar and Donald Tusk have said.
The taoiseach revealed the details of his conversation with Tusk on Monday in New York in remarks after his meeting with Boris Johnson last night. He said:
We have working methods and I know that President Tusk and other EU heads of government would like to see British proposals in writing really in the first week of October, otherwise it is very hard to see how we could agree something at the summit in the middle of October.
He also signalled a significant shift on the EU’s opposition to re-opening the withdrawal agreement by noting it could not be changed at the last minute because of its treaty status.
The withdrawal agreement is actually an international treaty. It’s not the kind of thing that can be amended or cobbled together late at night at the European council meeting on 17 October. So if the UK does have meaningful proposals, changes that they would like to suggest to the withdrawal agreement or to the joint political declaration more particularly, we really need to see them in advance so that they can be worked through and worked up in advance of the EU summit.
A full write up is in the Irish Times.
Jo Swinson, the Lib Dem leader, is speaking to the media outside Westminster now.
She says the Lib Dems want parliament to bring forward a mechanism that would stop the government trying to bypass the Benn Act, which is designed to stop the UK leaving the EU on 31 October without a deal.
Although the government says it will obey the law, Johnson also says repeatedly – as he did again yesterday – that the UK will definitely leave the EU on 31 October, implying that in the event of no deal he wants to ignore the act.
Labour has also said it wants to get further assurances to ensure that the Benn Act achieves what it is supposed to achieve. Both Labour and the Lib Dems are saying that, once they get those absolute guarantees, they will back a general election. But they have not said yet what parliament could do to make the act watertight.
We are also getting two urgent questions today.
UQs come first, so Joanna Cherry will be up at 11.30am.
Hacker House is the company which has Boris Johnson’s close friend, or former close friend, Jennifer Arcuri as a director. It received a £100,000 grant from the culture department. In normal circumstances this story would probably be dominating the news, but it is probably not Johnson’s primary worry at the moment.
This is from Robert Buckland, the justice secretary and lord chancellor. It may be a veiled dig at his cabinet colleague, Jacob Rees-Mogg. (See 10.26am.)
Boris Johnson is a winner like the Manchester City boss, Pep Guardiola, Michael Gove has said. The Cabinet Office minister told LBC:
I think it is only fair to say that Boris is the Pep Guardiola of British politics.
Asked about the court “humiliation”, Gove also said:
Words like humiliation are good journalistic hyperbole.
In response to a question on whether the prime minister’s losing streak would be longer than Tottenham Hotspur’s, Gove said:
No, look, the prime minister is a born winner ... he was mayor of London twice, he beat Ken Livingstone twice.
Boris Johnson to address MPs this afternoon
Those statements have now been confirmed.
Because parliament is reconvening at short notice, there are no questions today, and no bills or debates scheduled. In fact, the agenda is empty.
Statements often take about an hour. If Grant Shapps starts at 11.30am, with the Thomas Cook statement, you would expect Johnson to start at around 2.30pm.
But urgent questions come before statements, and apparently the Speaker has received 32 applications for urgent questions. (See 10.41am.) Perhaps he might take two or three? If so, you would expect Johnson to speak late afternoon.
Boris Johnson is expected to address parliament later now that he is back in the country, Sky’s Beth Rigby reports.
Boris Johnson is back in the UK after his trip to the UN in New York. His RAF Voyager touched down a few minutes ago, PA Media reports.
Senior Tories criticise Rees-Mogg for calling supreme court ruling 'constitutional coup'
Lord Heseltine, the former Conservative deputy prime minister, has criticised Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the Commons, for describing the supreme court judgment as a “constitutional coup”. (See 10.08am.) He said Rees-Mogg used to be a “pillar of rectitude”. But in the last few weeks he has been seen lounging on the front bench, and criticising the supreme court, Heseltine said. He went on:
This is a Tory, this is someone who believes in the high principles of Conservatism, taking about a constitutional coup when he’s lost a legal case. If I’m arraigned on some sort of criminal charge in the courts, and I then said ‘Well, of course it’s a personal vendetta’, people would laugh. Yet we’ve got the leader of the House of Commons talking about the unanimous judgment of 11 judges, calling it a constitutional coup.
Heseltine is an arch-remainer, and so you would expect him to be critical of Rees-Mogg. But Sir Geoffrey Clifton Brown, a Tory Brexiter, told the same programme that he also thought Rees-Mogg’s language was wrong. Clifton-Brown said:
I do think it’s a lapse of judgment on Jacob’s behalf. And, like Lord Heseltine, I’m surprised that he said that. As a result of 24 hours since the judgment, I think cooler minds will prevail. Michael Gove was very careful what he said this morning about criticising the supreme court. We are the party of law and order. We will accept and uphold the judgment.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the Commons, reportedly described the supreme court judgment as a “constitutional coup” when cabinet ministers spoke on a conference call last night.
This morning, in an interview on Sky News, Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister refused to deny the story. Sky’s Sarah-Jane Mee asked him three times if the reports about what Rees-Mogg were wrong, and each time Gove sidestepped the question. When she asked a fourth time, he replied:
I don’t recognise that language at all.
This sounds like a denial, but actually it isn’t. It is a formula frequently used by politicians at the moment when they want to sound as if they are denying a story but don’t feel comfortable saying it is untrue.
The justification for using the phrase is that the reality of what happened was rather different from the way it was reported. But that is true of almost any event reported second-hand as seen by someone who was involved in person.
In his Today interview Jeremy Corbyn seemed to rule out Labour voting for a short Commons recess next week to allow the Conservative party conference in Manchester to go ahead. (See 8.41am.) But Diane Abbott, the shadow home secretary, told Sky’s All Out Politics that the shadow cabinet would be discussing this issue when it meets this morning. She suggested that the Labour party might agree to the Commons not sitting early next week. Asked whether Labour would let a mini conference recess go ahead, she replied:
The Labour party is very benevolent and believes in fair play. So we’ll see what [the Conservatives] come forward with. But we want to be benevolent.
Normally, when the Conservative conference is on, the Commons is in recess for the whole week. The opposition parties will almost certainly want it to be sitting next Wednesday for PMQs, when Boris Johnson was meant to be delivering his party conference speech, but one option might be to agree for the Commons not to sit for a day or two at the start of the week, so a shortened conference could go ahead.
We are likely to know more about what is happening by the end of the day.
On the subject of who might head an interim government, if Boris Johnson were to lose a confidence vote and if the opposition parties were to unite behind someone else who could take over solely to negotiate a Brexit delay with the EU and then hold a general election, Newsnight’s Nicholas Watt says Margaret Beckett is a possible candidate.
Beckett, a former foreign secretary and former leader of the Commons, is respected by MPs from all sides of the Commons. Unlike Hilary Benn, another Labour backbencher sometimes tipped as leader of an interim, cross-party anti-no-deal government, she would be more amenable to Jeremy Corbyn and his team. She would also be seen as someone with no ambition to hold on to the job beyond a general election.
Blackford signals SNP could accept Corbyn as interim PM to stop no deal pending general election
Good morning. I’m Andrew Sparrow, taking over from Simon Murphy.
Ian Blackford, the SNP’s leader at Westminster, was on the Today programme earlier this morning and he said something potentially important about what might happen after a vote of no confidence in the Commons.
One plan would be for the opposition parties to install an interim PM who could request a delay to Brexit and then hold a general election. In the past the SNP has been very negative about the idea of installing Jeremy Corbyn as PM. But this morning Blackford indicated that the SNP might support putting Corbyn into Downing Street on this interim PM basis. Asked whether he could support Corbyn taking over in those circumstances, Blackford said:
I’m less concerned about the individual.
I think it is fair to say that, in such a scenario, the official leader of the opposition is the first point of contact as far as that is concerned.
But we are only talking about putting someone in place in order to call an election. On that basis, I wouldn’t be opposed to that [Corbyn being interim PM].
Reaction here from some lobby journalists on Corbyn’s interview.
And this, from the Times’ Matt Chorley, on a dig Corbyn made about what he considers to be unfair media coverage.
Corbyn says Johnson should apologise to Queen and country for unlawfully suspending parliament
The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who has already called on Boris Johnson to resign, says the prime minister should apologise to the Queen and the British people following the supreme court ruling.
In a rare appearance on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said Johnson abused his powers.
I think he should apologise both to her [the Queen] for the advice he gave her [over suspending parliament] but, more importantly, apologise to the British people for what he’s done in trying to shut down our democracy at a very crucial time when people are very, very worried about what will happen on 31 October.
Johnson did speak to the Queen yesterday after the supreme court ruling, although No 10 has refused to say whether he apologised.
In his interview Corbyn said his priority was to prevent a no-deal exit but he would not be bounced into a general election before that is secured.
Asked about accusations he is scared of holding a general election because of his party’s dire poll ratings, he replied:
I’m very happy to have a general election when we’ve taken no deal off the table and the EU has granted that extension.
Pressed on his party’s poor polling, he claimed Labour had been a “very effective opposition”.
Corbyn also confirmed Labour will not vote for a short recess for Conservative party conference next week.
Reaction here from the editor of Politics Home, Kevin Schofield, to that Gove interview.
Gove refuses to accept government did anything wrong when it suspended parliament
Michael Gove denied the government did anything wrong by suspending parliament – despite the supreme court’s ruling yesterday. The Tory cabinet minister, who is in charge of no-deal planning, said he respected the court’s position but would not accept being at fault over prorogation.
Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme whether the government did something wrong by proroguing parliament, Gove said: “I don’t believe so.”
Accused of having a lack of humility during a testy interview, he replied:
I absolutely respect the integrity of the supreme court, I respect the judgment, the government will comply with it. That is the law.
It is also the case that the principle of judicial review is a well-understood one, it has often been the case that government ministers have taken actions which they believed were right and then the courts, whether it’s been the high court or other courts, have said: ‘Actually, do you know what? Your exercise of your executive power or your prerogative power was wrong’.
Tory grandee Ken Clarke – who has been tipped as a potential caretaker prime minister – stops short of calling for Boris Johnson to resign but says the supreme court ruling “leaves us back in a more sensible constitutional position”.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:
I think it just leaves us back in a more sensible constitutional position. The smash, bang, wallop approach to government of the country in the last few weeks was in danger of leaving us in an extraordinary situation. It was as if we were going to have President Trump but with no checks and balances, just a presidential system.
Asked about the next steps in parliament, he said:
The most important task is to decide as quickly as we can how we are going to move forward on Brexit. It’s not true, which is being repeated over and over again by ministers, that everybody who’s involved in parliament is just trying to stop Brexit, defy the people … I voted for Brexit three times with a deal on these three preliminary points. I think the best thing to do is to produce a majority in parliament on a cross-party basis – which people would normally approve of the parties co-operating – to actually have those three points disposed of, leave with that preliminary deal and then have an election and get a government that explains what its long-term negotiations are going to be.
You might have to add a referendum on whatever interim withdrawal agreement you reach. I’m not in favour of referendums. Having a referendum with such a simplistic question and answer for such a huge number of complex – they’re quite technical – issues has caused all the trouble. But if you had to have a referendum to validate the withdrawal agreement or to decide on what the alternatives are if you don’t, I might resign myself to that. Now, whether enough people would resign themselves to that to get a majority in parliament, I’m not sure.
According to the Financial Times’ economics editor, Chris Giles, his paper never calls for “heads to roll in editorials” but, in a thundering piece, it says today: “Faced with such a damning judgment, any premier with a shred of respect for British democracy and the responsibilities of his office would resign.”
Good morning, folks. Simon Murphy here taking the helm of the live blog ahead of parliament opening its doors to MPs this morning following the extraordinary supreme court ruling yesterday. Another big day of politics in store …
Quite a lot was made of Lady Hale’s remarkable spider brooch yesterday. There is a lovely piece of analysis from the Guardian’s senior fashion writer and senior social reporter here about what Hale might be telling us with her fashion choice, with a brief history of subversive brooches.
Since then, I’ve started seeing a few people adding a spider into their Twitter name. Trudy Harpham has done this and offers this explanation as to why.
How the papers have covered supreme court decision
The stunning supreme court ruling, which found Boris Johnson’s suspension of parliament “unlawful”, is unsurprisingly the lead on all the newspapers today, with very mixed takes on the news.
Lord Adonis is up, he is angry and he is tweeting.
The Labour peer has called the Tories “a revolutionary rabble – with Eton accents”, published an imagined Queen’s speech, and tweeted a quote from a (real) speech from Margaret Thatcher, in which she asserts the importance of an independent judiciary whose decisions aren’t undermined for the rule of law.
From the Labour MP Kevin Brennan
Overnight, Boris Johnson delivered his inaugural speech to the UN General Assembly. It was, let’s just say, a remarkable speech.
My colleague Graham Russell pulled together a selection of quotes from the address, which was meant to be about the opportunities and challenges of technology, in which Johnson ranged from mattresses that can monitor your nightmares to a diet of “terrifying limbless chickens”. Enjoy.
“In the future, voice connectivity will be in every room and almost every object: your mattress will monitor your nightmares; your fridge will beep for more cheese.”
“A future Alexa will pretend to take orders. But this Alexa will be watching you, clucking her tongue and stamping her foot.”
“You may keep secrets from your friends, from your parents, your children, your doctor – even your personal trainer – but it takes real effort to conceal your thoughts from Google.”
“AI – what will it mean? Helpful robots washing and caring for an ageing population? Or pink-eyed terminators sent back from the future to cull the human race?”
“What will synthetic biology stand for – restoring our livers and our eyes with miracle regeneration of the tissues, like some fantastic hangover cure? Or will it bring terrifying limbless chickens to our tables?”
“When Prometheus brought fire to mankind. In a tube of fennel, as you may remember, that Zeus punished him by chaining him to a Tartarean crag while his liver was pecked out by an eagle. And every time his liver regrew the eagle came back and pecked it again. And this went on forever – a bit like the experience of Brexit in the UK, if some of our parliamentarians had their way.”
What happens now in parliament?
Martin Farrer has written this helpful guide to what happens next in parliament. The full guide is here, but here are the answers to a few key questions:
What’s happening with parliament on Wednesday?
The president of the UK’s highest court, Lady Hale, announced on Tuesday that “parliament has not been prorogued”. The unanimous judgment of all 11 justices was that it was for parliament - and particularly the speakers of both houses - to decide what to do next. Commons Speaker John Bercow has already said that parliament must be reconvened as a “matter of urgency”and that MPs will sit at 11.30am. The usual Wednesday session of prime minister’s questions would not take place, he said, although there would be opportunities for MPs to hold the Government to account.
What does it mean for Brexit?
Corbyn was meeting the leaders of the Scottish Nationalists, Lib Dems and other opposition parties last night to work out how to exert maximum pressure to achieve their number one goal: making sure Johnson cannot escape the legal obligation set out in the Benn-Burt bill to delay Brexit if he has not reached a deal of any description by 19 October. Johnson has always insisted he will not request an extension of article 50 and may be hoping that the EU summit on 17 October will provide a breakthrough.
Government ministers have repeatedly dodged questions about whether they think there are loopholes they could use to avoid complying with the Benn legislation. But it would risk another potentially humiliating legal battle with the courts if Johnson chose to go down that route. In a hint he could have another go at suspending parliament he said there was a “good case for getting on with a Queen’s speech”.
Does any of this make an election more likely?
Johnson would like to have an election as soon as possible, but he has failed to force the necessary legal instrument through parliament. As he put it, “we have a parliament that is unable to be prorogued” and “doesn’t want to have an election”. The opposition parties don’t want an election until Johnson has asked for the Brexit extension. Their calculation is that Johnson will be weakened by doing so because he has made delivering Brexit on 31 October “come what may” the totem of his prime ministership. They can therefore go to the country portraying him as someone who has failed to deliver his promises.
Good morning and welcome to the politics live blog.
Yesterday was a fairly extraordinary day on both sides of the Atlantic. Just hours after the supreme court handed down its ruling declaring Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament was “unlawful, void and of no effect”, Nancy Pelosi announced an official impeachment inquiry into US president Donald Trump. Quite the day for brash, blonde world leaders.
The Supreme Court verdict has meant that Johnson has had to cut short his visit to New York, where he was attending the United Nations general assembly. He is due to arrive in London around lunchtime on Wednesday after an overnight flight.
Parliament will resume at 11:30am, with MPs returning to the House of Commons two weeks after it was suspended in chaotic scenes. A government official in New York with the prime minister said it was impossible to say whether Johnson would appear before the Commons.
“I would anticipate there would be statements to the house, I’m just not in a position to say what they will be on,” the official said.
Downing Street suggested the prime minister would continue to push for a snap general election, while opposition parties attempted to inflict maximum embarrassment on Johnson.
“In the coming days parliament is likely to be put on the spot to see if it will have an election or whether it will continue to keep the country in zombie-parliament stasis. The only way out is an election and they will be given another opportunity to let the public decide if and when we leave the EU,” said a No 10 source.
I’ll be at the helm of this blog in the early hours, before I hand it over to my brilliant colleagues. As always, you can get in touch via Twitter or email (email@example.com).
We don’t know what the day will bring, but it’s a fairly sure bet that it will bring drama, so buckle up and thanks for reading along.