As the Supreme Court continues to grapple with the question of whether the prorogation of Parliament is justified or not, the EU continues to play mind games with the Prime Minister over his Brexit position. EU leaders have now given Johnson a two-week deadline to figure out a backstop alternative, but the PM has branded this an “artificial deadline”. Elsewhere, we look back at the Lib Dem conference in Bournemouth, and forward to next week’s Labour conference in Brighton.
Johnson gets empty podium treatment in Luxembourg
The Prime Minister was left humiliated on Monday with his claims of progress in the Brexit negotiations in tatters after a chaotic visit to Luxembourg ended in the Prime Minister being mocked by Luxembourg’s Prime Minister, Xavier Battel. Johnson cancelled a press appearance following their meeting to avoid protesters, but Battel continued with a solo press conference, in which he proceeded to mock claims of Brexit progress and suggested that the future of UK citizens across the EU was being held hostage for ‘party political gains’. Other EU leaders expressed their impatience at the Prime Minister, with France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, and Finland’s prime minister, Antti Rinne, setting a two-week deadline for the UK Government to table a plan for replacing the Irish backstop. The UK government has insisted progress has been made since Mr Johnson came into office in July and has put forward ‘a number of proposals’, but the EU has continued to criticise the UK for not putting any plans in writing. There are concerns that if no new proposals have been submitted before the end of September there will not be enough time to discuss them before the October summit, but Leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, has insisted that the Prime Minister is on course to deliver a ‘fundamentally different’ Brexit deal to Theresa May to ensure the UK leaves on 31st October, and which respects the DUP’s concerns about Northern Ireland’s constitutional position.
See EU in court
The judges of the Supreme Court will spend this weekend deciding whether or not the Prime Minister acted lawfully in suspending parliament. President of the Supreme Court Lady Hale said judges would publish their decision following the three-day case early next week. The court has been hearing two appeals into whether the Prime Minister acted lawfully or has to call parliament back from prorogation. Former Prime Minister Sir John Major, who himself prorogued Parliament in 1997 for three weeks before the upcoming general election at a time when a ‘cash for questions’ scandal report was being published, will be the most senior intervention to challenge the new Prime Minister’s reasoning for the prorogation. The English High Court threw out a challenge led by campaigner Gina Miller, but the Scottish Court of Session ruled the Prime Minister’s decisions were unlawful. Challenges to these rulings are now being heard by the eleven senior judges who make up the Supreme Court and will decide whether prorogation is a matter for the courts as a legal matter or is a political matter. Whilst the Prime Minister was being taken to the court for lying to the queen, Johnson came under scrutiny for telling a pointless and blatant lie, on camera at Whipps Cross hospital. Upon being confronted by the parent of a sick child who accused the PM of visiting the hospital for a press opportunity, Johnson claimed there were “no press” present in front of the cameras, resulting in widespread humiliation for the PM.
Cameron doesn’t hold back
Former Prime Minister David Cameron was back in the headlines this week for publishing of his memoirs. The former Prime Minister accused Mr Johnson of not believing in Brexit and backed leave “because it would help with his political career”. Cameron also referred to cabinet minister Michael Gove as a “foam flecked Faragist” and said that him and Johnson were “ambassadors for the expert-trashing, truth-twisting age of populism”. In an LBC interview yesterday, Cameron said that he believes the new PM could yet get a Brexit deal — but that he will need the help of Angela Merkel to get it over the line.
Lib Dem’s in poll position
A new YouGov poll published yesterday has placed the Lib Dems up 4 points to 23%, which is 2 points ahead of Labour. This comes off the back of their party conference, which finished on Wednesday. During the conference, Swinson took to the stage to announce the party’s decision to drop its commitment to a second referendum, and instead, the party now backs cancelling Brexit entirely by revoking Article 50. The leader also openly confronted both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn, claiming that the country now needed the Lib Dems to give voters a better choice. During the conference Sam Gyimah became the sixth MP to defect to the anti-Brexit party since the 2017 general election, boosting the number of Lib Dem seats to 18.
Labour’s Brexit battle
The Labour Party heads to Brighton tomorrow for its party conference, and Corbyn will try to move the conversation on from Brexit but will probably fail. Labour activists will attempt to make the party’s stance unequivocally in favour of remain, but Corbyn looks determined to not pick sides in a future referendum. He wants to negotiate a new Brexit deal and put it to a vote with the option of Remain. The neutral stance taken by Mr Corbyn has been openly challenged by First Minister of Wales, who has committed Welsh Labour to campaigning to remaining in the EU. Several shadow cabinet members, including shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry and shadow chancellor John McDonnell, have committed to negotiating a Labour deal with the EU but campaign to Remain.
The Whitehouse team are experts in the potential impact of Brexit, providing political consultancy and public affairs advice to a wide range of clients, not only in the United Kingdom, but also across the member states of the European Union. More information about our Brexit experience can be found here, or, if you have any questions, please contact our Chair, Chris Whitehouse, at firstname.lastname@example.org.