UK Politics

Brexit: Bid to block no deal through Northern Ireland Bill falters

Houses of Parliament

Dominic Grieve's attempt to block the suspension of Parliament in the autumn will not be put to a vote on Tuesday.

The pro-Remain Tory MP had been seeking to amend the Northern Ireland Bill to stop a new PM forcing through a no-deal Brexit by proroguing Parliament.

The former attorney general had said such a move would be "an end to democracy".

However, as one of his amendments was not selected MPs will not get to vote on it.

The UK had been due to leave the EU on 29 March, but this date was delayed after MPs repeatedly rejected Theresa May's deal. Currently, the date for exit is 31 October.

If that date is reached without a deal being agreed on the separation process, then the UK will leave without one.

MPs have consistently voted against this option, but the prime minister could try to get around that by closing Parliament - proroguing - in the run-up to Brexit day, denying them an opportunity to block it.

Mr Grieve had tabled an amendment requiring the government to produce regular reports on the situation in Northern Ireland in the autumn.

Although this would probably not block the closure of Parliament, it could provide a tool for MPs to block a no-deal Brexit come October.

The reports on Northern Ireland would have to be debated in Parliament if it was in session, and although the debates themselves might be insignificant, they could provide opportunity for MPs to take control of business.

This amendment was selected for debate, but a further amendment stating that MPs should be recalled to debate such reports if Parliament is closed was not.

Therefore, the effort to block a no-deal Brexit carries less force.

'Outrageous'

An amendment on gay marriage, tabled by Labour's Conor McGinn was approved 383 votes to 73.

The amendment states that if the devolved assembly in Stormont is not restored by 21 October, then the UK government should legislate for same-sex marriage - with the caveat that a future assembly could overturn or amend the law.

Labour MP Stella Creasy's amendment - arguing that abortion law in Northern Ireland should be reformed to comply with human rights obligations - has also been approved 332 votes to 99.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme earlier, Mr Grieve said: "The idea that it is constitutionally proper to prorogue Parliament as a device for bringing about a no-deal Brexit is outrageous - I have never come across a more extraordinary suggestion."

Unlike his rival Jeremy Hunt, Boris Johnson - the frontrunner in the Conservative leadership race - has not ruled out suspending Parliament.

He has said he could not "envisage the circumstances" in which he would do so. He has vowed to leave the EU on 31 October "come what may".

Lord Hague, a supporter of Jeremy Hunt, has opposed proroguing Parliament, arguing: "It ought to be unthinkable that we could leave the EU by procedure, a procedural ruse."

Conservative Maria Caulfield attacked Dominic Grieve's tabling of the amendment as "shameful behaviour", and accused him of treating the people of Northern Ireland as a "political football".

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