Will Tory MPs swallow May's Brexit formula?

Theresa May Image copyright Reuters

Last weekend the government had a glimpse of how quickly it could break itself over Brexit.

For a few hours, at least, it seemed as if Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson might resign, triggering a leadership crisis, and possibly an outright collapse. Maybe even an election.

The moment passed. There was a show of unity at the Cabinet. But you only need shows of unity when you are trying to manage dangerous divisions, and tensions over the final form of Brexit still lurk behind the fixed grins of ministers, as the prime minister's "Brexit Means Brexit" rubric wears thin.

Viewed against that backdrop Theresa May's Florence speech now looks crucial to the political stability of the Conservative Party.

Because the government is not just negotiating with the EU; it is negotiating with itself and, by extension, with its backbenchers, and with the broader constituencies of Leave and Remain voters outside Westminster.

'Double-lock'

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Key committee player steps down

Richard Bacon Image copyright HoC

After their long post-election dormancy, the select committees have swung back into action - with a new crop of committee chairs and ordinary members looking to make their mark as scrutineers of government.

But one long-standing titan of the committee corridor will be missing.

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Committee conflict prefigures battle to come

Parliament Image copyright HoC

Tonight's Commons vote on whether the government should be guaranteed a majority on Commons Public Bill Committees is about the Brexit battles to come.

This week, the Commons intakes of 2015 and 2017 have had their first taste of what parliamentary business will be like in the months and years ahead, as a vast body of Brexit legislation has to be passed, before the UK exits the EU.

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Week ahead in Parliament

Parliament Image copyright HoC

This week should provide a frisson for Maastricht veterans as the Commons gears up for a long attritional debate on the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, with Monday's conclusion of the second reading stage merely providing the prologue for a gruelling committee stage.

But MPs will at least have their select committees to provide light relief.

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Is the committee system finally up-and-running?

Witnesses at the Pensions Committee Image copyright HOC

Rejoice! Barring a last-minute slip 'twixt cup and lip, the Commons select committees should be back in action next Tuesday after what most committee chairs regard as an unnecessarily long post-election hiatus.

A motion nominating the committees has been put down in the Commons today, and will be approved on Monday, and a number of committees will be holding hearings next week.

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Week ahead in Parliament

PMQs Image copyright PA

The relatively gentle introduction to parliamentary life enjoyed by the Commons class of 2017 will come to an abrupt end, as they return to Westminster on Tuesday, to begin the long gruelling process of legislating for Brexit (see previous post).

But at least they may have the select committees to provide a little light relief.

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EU bill debate could strain tempers

Parliament Image copyright AFP

It may not be a murder weapon, but at the very least it will be an instrument of torture for the government - the forthcoming debates on the EU Withdrawal Bill will put massive strain on ministers, the Tory whips and on Conservative unity.

The bill will provide the legal toolkit necessary to implement Brexit, enacting whatever withdrawal deal is reached, and providing a mechanism for the huge number of consequential legal changes which will flow from it.

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A break for punch-drunk politicians

Nick Clegg
Image caption Former Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg was a casualty of the 2017 general election

So farewell, then: majority government, the EU, deficit reduction, new grammar schools, Commons clerks with wigs, MPs with ties, and Nick Clegg.

Parliament's summer break gives a punch-drunk political establishment a much-needed chance to ponder the total transformation of the political scene over the year since the EU referendum.

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Blockages as committee system struggles to get going

Dominic Grieve Image copyright HoC
Image caption Keen to stand: will Dominic Grieve be the chair of the ISC?

As the new set of select committee chairs don their purple striped togas, there are still a few vacant niches in key parts of the committee system.

First off - the Intelligence and Security Committee. The ISC is emphatically not a select committee of Parliament; it is a committee of parliamentarians appointed by the prime minister to oversee the security services.

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Week ahead in Parliament

Parliament Image copyright AFP

It's the final four days of Parliament before the summer recess, with not all that much to occupy honourable members and noble lords, although Labour have succeeded in engineering an emergency debate to complain about the way the Commons has been managed, since the election.

Wiser heads are advising new members to enjoy the relative quiet while they can, on the expectation that Brexit hostilities will commence when they return in September, and the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill is debated.

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