“My early Christmas present to the nation will be to bring the Brexit bill back before the festive break, and get parliament working for the people,” Boris Johnson said ahead of the Conservative manifesto launch on Sunday. “As families sit down to carve up their turkeys this Christmas, I want them to enjoy their festive season free from the seemingly unending Brexit box-set drama.”
But far from being free from drama, Johnson’s pledge will mean Brexit upheaval that could last right up to Christmas Eve.
Johnson is pushing to hold the crucial second reading vote on the Brexit bill ahead of the Christmas break, assuming he wins a majority at the general election on December 12. That means fast-tracking the parliamentary procedures that happen after an election and risking arguments with MPs and Commons authorities.
The earliest date that MPs can be back in parliament is Tuesday, December 17, because of the rules around the election and to allow time for logistical tasks such as reactivating and issuing security passes. MPs would elect a speaker that same day — which should be a formality because they picked Lindsay Hoyle to take over from John Bercow before they broke up for the election.
Then every MP needs to be “sworn in” (to make an oath of allegiance to the crown while holding up a sacred text) before they can speak in debates and vote. That would take up the rest of Tuesday and Wednesday.
UK NATIONAL PARLIAMENT ELECTION POLL OF POLLS
Downing Street announced today that the queen will make her trip for the state opening of parliament on Thursday, December 19 — presumably with some degree of déjà vu after she went through the same ceremony in October when Johnson closed and re-opened the parliamentary session. The state opening will take a full day and no government business can be brought forward until after it is finished.
That means Friday, December 20 is the most likely day that Brexit legislation will be debated and voted on, and the government will try to fast-track the bill to get the second reading done. There is a possibility that instead of sitting on the Friday, the bill could be brought forward the following Monday (December 23) — but that is unlikely to go down well with MPs who want to start their Christmas break.
Whether or not the breakneck timetable will lead to the second promise made by Johnson, to get Brexit done by January 31, will be a question for after Christmas. With the remaining parliamentary stages of the bill and ratification in the European Parliament still to go, there will be numerous further hoops to jump through. Oh, and he still has to win a majority in the election first.
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