UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson returned to face the nation’s parliament on Wednesday a day after the Supreme Court ruled he acted unlawfully when suspending the legislature earlier this month.
Johnson flew back from addressing the UN General Assembly to face calls to resign from politicians, pundits and the public – even from the Financial Times – but appears set to continue on his mission to pull the UK out from the European Union, “do or die” in his own words, on October 31.
His administration is likely to call again for a snap general election, but with no ability to command a governing majority in Parliament, it is far from certain that he will be successful.
As the House of Commons reconvened its previous session, Attorney-General Geoffrey Cox was summoned by MPs to explain the government’s position.
Cox said there would be an “election motion that will be coming before the House shortly”.
However, a snap election requires the support of two-thirds of parliamentarians – and opposition parties prefer to keep Johnson on a tight leash, at least until a Brexit extension is formally secured.
Trying to not break the law
Veteran Labour MP Barry Sheerman accused the government of having “no shame”:
“This government cynically manipulated the prorogation to shut down this house so that it couldn’t work as a democratic assembly.”
Cox said Johnson would abide by a law passed this month demanding Brexit be delayed to avoid a “no-deal” exit, but did not explain how the government could do so and still keep its promise.
Johnson’s best chance of securing re-election would be to actually secure an EU exit deal before the October 31 deadline for the UK’s withdrawal. Such an outcome would also stop him from breaking the law.
But a deal at this late stage is seeming unlikely with the EU saying the UK’s proposals to remove the Irish “backstop” were not suitable.
Last week, the UK said it had shared with the EU a “series of confidential technical non-papers” that reflect its Brexit ideas, adding it would submit formal written solutions “when we are ready” rather than meeting an “artificial deadline”.
The backstop – the contingency measure that would keep the UK closely aligned to Brussels’ rules in order to prevent a hard border with Ireland – is seen as the main stumbling block to a Brexit deal.
The “non-papers” shared by the UK focus on the agri-food zone, customs issues and on manufactured goods.
Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator, said a meeting would take place in the European Parliament on Wednesday to discuss “the non-papers or so-called alternative proposals that have been put on the table”.
“They are not meeting the three conditions,” he said. “This point is not solved and this backstop needs to be in place as it is for them. We have already said from day one that if they want to change the backstop, they can go to the one they first proposed because the backstop as it is now was at the request of the UK government.”
‘Boris is a born winner’
Meanwhile, a plan is in place to restrict holiday leave for police officers in Northern Ireland following Brexit.
Some 90 percent of officers will be prevented from taking time off for the first six weeks after the United Kingdom is scheduled to leave the European Union on October 31.
Police Service of Northern Ireland Assistant Chief Constable George Clarke described it in an interview with the PA news agency as a “sensible operational contingency”, adding the measure will be kept under review.
Johnson is continuing his efforts to govern in the face of numerous obstacles. He has lost every single parliamentary vote of his premiership. He lost his parliamentary majority when he sacked 21 of his MPs and a further two defected. On Monday, he lost at the Supreme Court 11-0 as justices ruled unanimously against him.
And he has been given two weeks by the London Assembly to explain his relationship with Jennifer Arcuri, a pole-dancing American former model who reportedly accompanied Johnson on overseas trips during his time as London mayor, and whose company received about 120,000 pounds ($150,000) of taxpayers’ money in that time.
Cabinet Minister Michael Gove said the prime minister was a “born winner”, despite all evidence to the contrary.
“I think it is only fair to say that Boris is the Pep Guardiola of British politics,” Gove told the LBC radio station, referring to the manager of the Manchester City football club.
Many on social media disagreed, however.
“The only way in which Boris Johnson and Pep Guardiola are similar is that they’ve both had an impact on the value of Sterling,” tweeted a user named Sam Freeman.
The pound fell one percent against the dollar on Wednesday, ceding gains made the previous day after the Supreme Court’s ruling, as investors priced many more months of Brexit and general-election uncertainty.