- To avoid withdrawal from the European Union without an agreement, a group of British deputies has chosen to vote against the autumn parliamentary break to extend the time for negotiations.
- Conservative sources point to Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s strategic advisor, as the main instigator of the hard-line Brexit and allege that he has undue influence on Downing Street.
A group of rebel deputies of the British Parliament is trying to prevent Boris Johnson from leaving the European Union on October 31 without an agreement. Increasingly outraged by the power and influence of Dominic Cummings, Johnson’s controversial assistant, deputies are thinking of voting against the fall parliamentary break to achieve their goal.
Formed by members of all parties, the group of congressmen is quickly reviewing the legislative options that remain to face the hard line of Cummings. Johnson’s ally is described by a Conservative Party source as the man who has imposed the “reign of terror” at 10 Downing Street, with the goal of achieving a Brexit on October 31 at any cost.
Three of the rebel deputies have explained to The Guardian that one of the measures they are considering is to submit an amendment to the motion that is presented every year to interrupt the sessions in mid-September so that the parties hold their congresses. Avoiding the interruption, the chamber would have another three weeks of extra sessions to prevent a Brexit without agreement and would open the possibility of reserving more days for the rebels to control matters to be dealt with in parliament. The ultimate goal is to pass a bill that forces the Johnson government to request an extension of article 50 in Brussels.
Since joining Johnson’s team, Cummings has told government advisers that Downing Street is willing to do everything necessary to have a Brexit on October 31, with or without an agreement. Possible measures to achieve this include suspending parliamentary sessions, ignoring any motion of censure against Johnson or calling general elections “of the people against politicians” to be held after Brexit.
Alarm for the growing role of Cummings
But within Downing Street, the alarm also grows between special advisors and conservative deputies, given the magnitude of the influence exerted by Cummings and his willingness to face parliament.
Cummings’ requirement to join the Government was to have control over Johnson’s office, sources from the Conservative Party explain. Once inside, he has dedicated himself to the removal of the most moderate advisers – such as Johnson’s former strongman at the London city hall Sir Eddie Lister – while he was putting together a team consisting of “true believers” of the hard-line Brexit, many of them members of the campaign that defended the exit of the EU in the 2016 referendum.
According to that source, the control that Cummings exerts on Downing Street is like a “reign of terror.” Immobilized by the fear of losing their job, the advisors have been instructed to work at full speed so that there is Brexit on the deadline of October 31.
In principle, the media received information that Lister would be Johnson’s new chief of staff. Within the government team, there are those who describe him as one of the “sensible”. But in internal emails of Downing Street, you can see that Cummings has become the “assistant to the prime minister” in charge of Brexit and internal policy, with Lister reduced to the position of “main strategic advisor”, responsible for issues Foreign, Business and Security.
A relevant adviser to the conservatives has explained to The Guardian that Cummings is the one who “directs the show, without any doubt”; and that it is even more ruthless and complicated to work than Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, Theresa May’s former advisors : “The level of terror is greater than what Priti Patel would like to exercise on criminals; it’s much, much scarier than when Nick Timothy was. It’s like two Fionas and one Nick in one; the worst of both worlds in one person. “
Cummings, however, also has advocated, including a special advisor who worked with the last two administrations. “Dom needs people who know how to do their job, who meet the prime minister’s priorities and who give sincere answers when there are problems,” he explains. “In the previous government, you could end up fired just because someone else had a bad day.”
Concern about the role of Cummings has also extended to some conservative deputies who admit to being alarmed by all the power Cummings has accumulated in a short time for a non-elected office. “[Cummings] is a non-elected advisor, and there is a concern that the prime minister is becoming a facade for Cummings’ ideological plans,” explains one of them.
A plan in which Corbyn as prime minister
If there are rebel deputies of several parties thinking of using the legislation to block a Brexit without an agreement, it is partly because the Labor Party has emphasized that it will not enter into a possible government of national unity in the event of a motion of censure. Before reaching an agreement with the other parties to support candidates such as Yvette Cooper or Ken Clarke, Labor prefers general elections or a minority Labor government led by Jeremy Corbyn.
John McDonnell, head of Foreign Affairs in the Labor opposition, explained that if there is a motion of censure and Johnson loses it, Corbyn is committed to forming a provisional government with the support of rebel conservative deputies and other opposition parties. What if the conservative leader does not resign? “Although he would rather not have to drag the queen to this,” McDonnell said half-jokingly, “he would send Jeremy Corbyn by taxi to Buckingham Palace to tell him: ‘Let’s take the witness.”
The problem with carrying out that plan is that many rebel conservative deputies do not trust a plan that ends with Corbyn as acting prime minister. That is the reason why instead of a vote to make the government fall, they prefer the option of legislating to prevent Brexit without agreement.
Peter Kyle, the Labor deputy who devised an intermediate solution in which an eventual agreement with the EU should be approved by a second referendum, says he has no doubt that the chamber can stop all Johnson and Cummings initiatives against parliament to achieve a Brexit without agreement.
“Of course we can decide not to take the [autumn] break; of course we can decide to file an amendment against how it has been so far; the parliament will be up to par if the government acts unconventionally and does not respect the sovereign power of parliament; and if the government breaks the rules, we will create new rules, “he explains. Kyle believes that the deputies will not be intimidated by Cummings, a “dissenting populist who raises in the gallery of his blogging friends” about a Brexit without agreement.
Chuka Umunna, deputy of the Liberal Democratic Party and spokesman for the Treasury, is not so clear. In his opinion, the “vital interparty work” that is being done will only be successful if a sufficient number of Labor and Conservative deputies are reached willing to prevent Brexit without agreement. “Everything will remain in nothing as long as the current alliance between at least 25 Labor deputies continues, including 8 of those who sit in the front row, and a majority of conservative deputies who persist in voting against legally binding measures that would prevent Brexit without agreement on the House of Commons, “he says.
According to experts, a plausible plan for rebel deputies of all parties is to take control of the agenda using recess motions, called “periodic motions of suspension.” Generally, no amendments can be made against those motions, but John Bercow, the president of the House of Commons, took a controversial first step in January by allowing conservative deputy Dominic Grieve to file an amendment against the convention. to a similar motion – the one that set a three-day deadline for the then Prime Minister to return to the House with another plan in case her agreement was rejected.
Grieve, a former attorney general, avoids talking about the possibility of submitting an amendment to the motion on the September recess. But he does advance that it would be unconstitutional to have Johnson disobeying a hypothetical motion of censure and staying on Downing Street until after October 31, the Brexit deadline.
On Tuesday, when a Sky News reporter addressed him outside his home, Cummings made a rare statement suggesting that parliament could find no way to prevent a Brexit without agreement forcing the prime minister to resign. “It’s the simplest thing, the prime minister believes that politicians cannot choose which votes are respected, that’s the key,” he said. “I don’t think I’m being arrogant; I don’t know much about many things; Mr. Grieve … we’ll see if he’s right.”