Today is expected to be a decisive moment in the UK Parliament in which opposition MPs hope to take control of the Order Paper, to facilitate a Bill that would require Boris Johnson to seek an extension of Article 50 to prevent a no-deal Brexit. But if MPs are successful and the Government is defeated, the Prime Minister has promised to in turn dissolve Parliament and hold a General Election.
What to expect today
Opposition MPs are expected to select a mediator to submit a request to the Speaker for an emergency debate on no-deal, in accordance with Standing Order 24. Usually, these debates take place the following day, last approximately two and a half hours and end with a neutral motion that is voted on along the lines of “That the House has considered […].”
The Speaker is almost certain to both grant the debate and, given recent precedent, to allow it to be heard and voted on this evening.
Emergency debates do not usually bind the Government’s hand. However, it has been the Speaker’s practice to allow MPs to add further wording which would allow time to debate and vote on a Bill that could, if passed, force the Government to act. The Bill in this instance is The European Union (Withdrawal) (No.6) Bill 2019. This would compel the Prime Minister to seek an extension of Article 50 to 11.00 pm 31 January 2020 if Parliament has not agreed a deal by 19 October 2019 and crucially, to accept whatever extension is offered along with any additional conditions.
If the Government is defeated tonight, time will be made tomorrow to debate and vote on the Bill. However, the Prime Minister also announced that if the Government is defeated tonight, he will move a motion to hold a General Election to be held on 14 October that would dissolve Parliament this Thursday (this would have to be voted by a two-third majority of MPs in accordance with the Fixed Term Parliament Act).
6.30 pm: The application for an emergency debate under Standing Order 24 is expected to be submitted. After a three minute introductory speech from the applicant, the Speaker will make his judgement as whether to grant the debate.
7.00 pm: If granted, the emergency debate will begin following the scheduled introduction of Chris Philp’s Private Member’s Bill.
10/10.30 pm: The Debate will close with a vote. If MPs vote in favour of the motion and the Government is defeated, time will be made tomorrow to debate the Bill. The Prime Minister may or may not make a statement this evening, but he is expected the following day to move a motion to hold a General Election.