Do MPs have the numbers to block no deal?

By Chris Hughes, Senior Account Executive, Cicero Group

After spending the summer recess assessing their options to prevent no-deal, the anti no-deal factions in Parliament will be forced to finally make their move when Parliament returns on Tuesday. The Government’s decision to prorogue Parliament for a Queen’s speech appears to be designed to pile pressure on those seeking to stop a no-deal Brexit, by forcing them to confront a decision about how and when they make this move. In that respect, it is arguably a clever move. 

The options MPs have are well documented. They either pass a vote of no confidence and attempt to instil a temporary Government to extend Article 50 or find a way to legislate to block on a no-deal exit on 31 October. Both options pose serious challenges, and with now very limited time remaining for Parliament to take action, Cicero has taken a closer look at the Parliamentary numbers to assess which of the options might attract a majority. The table below outlines our findings in full, and a number of interesting conclusions can be made. 

Firstly, while there now appears to be a majority to pass a vote of no-confidence in the Government, there is a clear lack of consensus on the formation of a temporary Government in the event of a vote of no-confidence passing. Boris Johnson’s latest move may have encouraged some Conservative MPs to consider voting against their own Government in a confidence vote, but voting to put Jeremy Corbyn in Number 10 is a different matter and it is very difficult to see the number of Conservative MPs required to enable a Corbyn led Government doing so. In the event he is unable to command a majority, an alternative Government achieving a majority is contingent on Corbyn giving his support- and that of the Labour frontbench- for an alternative figurehead. This would require Corbyn to step aside and support a Government led either by a Conservative MP, or even someone on his own backbenches. While this isn’t impossible, the thought of Government being led by someone other than the leaders of the two largest parties in Westminster will sound implausible to many. 

This means the easier route for Parliament to attain a majority is to find a legislative route to prevent no-deal. Finding the means by which to do so is challenging, maintaining a majority throughout all legislative stages could be difficult, and the lack of parliamentary time is also a constraint, even more so given the upcoming prorogation of Parliament. But this will on the other hand help to focus minds and instil a sense of urgency in MPs wavering on whether to take action. 

So it’s not all doom and gloom for those seeking to find a way to stop no-deal. One positive for the no-deal alliance is the increased numbers of Conservative MPs willing to stop a no-deal. With a number of Cabinet Ministers and Junior Ministers resigning, losing their jobs or leaving Government due to their inability to support a no-deal Brexit, the number of potential backbenchers prepared to rebel against the Government has at least doubled. 14 Conservative MPs supported the passage of the Cooper-Letwin Bill in April 2019 to avoid no-deal. We’ve identified 31 backbench MPs who could now appear to be prepared to block no-deal through a legislative route, with as many as 20 of these MPs possibly being prepared to vote their own Government down. 

The time for Parliament to make its move has now come. Anti no-deal MPs are likely to get one opportunity before Parliament is prorogued to make it, and they will know if they don’t get it right, there is very little they can do to stop a no-deal come the 31st October. Standby for a turbulent week and almighty tussle as the powers of Government and Parliament collide.

If you would like to discuss this analysis or how Cicero can support your organisation, please do get in touch.

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Chris Hughes

Senior Account Executive

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