Brexit: What has happened in Westminster’s most turbulent week?

The late Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson famously coined the phrase ‘a week is a long time in politics.’

Fast-forward five decades and the dizzying turmoil in Westminster means that even 24 hours can feel like a lifetime.

The issue at stake is the direction of Brexit.

New Tory Prime Minister Boris Johnson is pressing on with a ‘do-or-die approach’ even if that means crashing out of the EU on October 31 without a deal.

Opposition leaders doubt he is really still negotiating with Brussels and are determined to stop a ‘damaging’ no-deal.

In the last week there has been plenty of name-calling, acrimonious sackings, dramatic walkouts and shifts of allegiance.

But just what on earth is going on?

What happened on Tuesday night?

The House of Commons held a vote over who had control of the parliamentary timetable. In short, Boris lost.

The drama started when Tory Philip Lee defected to the Lib Dems and ended Mr Johnson’s wafer thin majority.

Then an alliance of opposition groups and Tory rebels wrested control of the House of Commons from the Prime Minister.

They are determined to pass legislation that would make a no-deal Brexit on October 31 illegal.

The vote was Mr Johnson’s first in the House of Commons and he lost by 27 votes.

Of that there were 21 rebels, including big hitters such as veteran Ken Clarke, former Chancellor Philip Hammond and Winston Churchill’s grandson Sir Nicholas Soames.

A furious Mr Johnson promptly sacked them all in a ‘purge of moderates’ – reducing his minority government even further.

What happened then on Wednesday?

Wednesday was an even more eventful day, beginning with a furious clash at PMQs between Mr Johnson and opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn.

At 3pm after the weekly questions, the opposition groups – and former Tory MPs – took control of the House of Commons.

In the evening they began to vote on legislation which would make a no-deal Brexit illegal.

In what would be Mr Johnson’s second Parliamentary defeat in the House of Commons, MPs approved the Benn-Burt bill, which is designed to stop us crashing out of the bloc on October 31.

He lost by 327 votes to 299, a majority of 28. Another Tory rebelled against Mr Johnson, taking the number to 22.

The bill is now facing scrutiny in the House of Lords and will be voted on before it becomes law.

If it passes, Mr Johnson will be forced to march back to Brussels to ask for an extension until January 31, 2020 – if no agreement has been reached by mid-October.

In a twist, it also says that if the European Council proposes an extension to a different date that the PM must approve it unless the Commons votes otherwise.

But the drama did not end there.

Mr Johnson threatened to call a general election if MPs agreed what he calls the ‘surrender bill’.

He needed the support of two-thirds of MPs and Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn refused to back him.

The opposition do not trust Mr Johnson to call an election before Brexit and a condition of their support is a legal guarantee against a no-deal Brexit.

Mr Johnson has not given this and so he lost the snap election vote by 298 votes to 56 after Labour abstained.

The Prime Minister did have a victory though over his decision to prorogue – or suspend – Parliament.

A cross-party group of MPs argued at the Court of Session in Edinburgh that he had overstepped his powers but a judge ruled Mr Johnson’s move was legal.

What’s happening on Thursday and Friday?

The Benn-Burt bill to stop a no-deal Brexit is being hurried through the House of Lords.

It is likely to come back before the Commons by 5pm on Friday ahead of the planned proroguing of Parliament next week.

There has also been some movement of MPs.

Former Labour and former Change UK MP Luciana Berger announced she was joining the Lib Dems while Boris Johnson’s own brother Jo quit the cabinet.

Could we still get an early general election?

Quite possibly. The issue could be over timing – will it be before or after Brexit?

Mr Johnson claims a general election is now the only way to sort Brexit is with a fresh mandate and a general election.

Mr Corbyn is very happy to head back to the ballot box but he is refusing to back a snap election while there is still a risk of no-deal.

Jacob Rees-Mogg has said the government will try again on Monday to call an election, which they want to take place on October 15.

If one is called, there must be a minimum of 25 days between the suspension of Parliament and polling day.

Some experts have suggested if no-deal if off the table then a ballot could take place later on – potentially after the scheduled leave date of October 31.

If Labour continue to refuse to a snap poll, Mr Johnson could attempt to create a new law calling for a general election.

But that could be subject to a series of amendments, which could also change the election date to some point within the proposed Brexit extension period or even extend the vote to anyone over the age of 16.

Mr Johnson could also, bizarrely, call a vote of no-confidence in his own government which would trigger an election.

It is a risky move, however, because Labour and other opposition MPs could swoop in and try to form a caretaker government instead.

Could we still get a no-deal?

It is still possible.

The Benn-Burt bill has passed the House of Commons but it still has to get through the House of Lords.

The Tory government could have scuppered its passage but the Lords sat late on Wednesday night and have pledged not to oppose it.

Controversially, the government could refuse to send the bill for Royal Assent, although that would see howls of outrage and would probably end up being tested in court.

But the clock is ticking on Brexit and the wheels of justice do not move quickly.

If Labour agrees to a snap election without getting Royal Assent to the Benn-Burt bill, then no-deal is also still possible if they lose the public vote.

It would also be possible if Mr Johnson finds another way to call a snap poll without the support of Labour and he then wins the public vote.

Mr Johnson could also use the UK’s power of veto at the European summit in mid-October to block any Brexit extension that has been agreed.

What even is no-deal?

The UK will automatically leave the EU at 11pm on October 31 this year unless there is legislation to stop it.

The move would see us leave without any formal arrangements for a future relationship or trade deals.

We would revert to World Trade Organisation tariffs and businesses would lose their rights to sell their services across the EU without first obtaining specific licences.

The UK would also have to leave EU institutions such as the European Court of Justice and Interpol.

It is also not clear about whether UK citizens would still have the freedom to travel without restrictions around the bloc.

One of the biggest issues is the 310-mile border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, which would have to return to a hard border because both sides would be operating under different trade and immigration laws.

This breaks the Good Friday Agreement, which brought peace to the island after three decades of fighting.

Leaked government reports, code-named Operation Yellowhammer, have warned of food and medicine shortages in the wake of no-deal and financial experts predict a recession.

Who is in charge at Westminster right now?

Right now control is back with Boris Johnson and his minority Tory government.

There are still plans for the proroguing of Parliament, which is set to happen on Monday at the earliest.

Is Boris in trouble?

Mr Johnson took up the reins on July 24 after around 90,000 of the Tory faithful voted him in to replace Mrs May.

But his opponents say the honeymoon period is over and control over his party is slipping.

In the early hours of August 2, he lost his first MP after Chris Dodds was replaced by Lib Dem Jane Dodds in the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election.

On Wednesday, he lost 22 MPs – Philip Lee’s defection and then the ‘purge’ of 21 rebels.

Local Conservative associations have been told to find new candidates ahead of a proposed election and Mr Johnson is, for now, refusing to re-admit them to the party.

He is also losing Ruth Davidson from the top position in Scotland.

One of the biggest blows though was the loss of his brother Jo, a Remainer, who said he was torn between loyalty to his family or the nation.

Brexit claimed the jobs of Tory PMs Theresa May and David Cameron and Mr Johnson has now lost every vote he has attempted to get through Parliament.

Experts say it is far too early to write-off the new Prime Minister and that losing the succession of votes could be part of a bigger master plan to still ensure a no-deal Brexit.

For now, Mr Johnson is stuck in that he is unable to call a general election while facing the prospect of a Brexit extension.

Some within the Labour party want him to ‘stew in his own juices’ for a bit longer.

What does the EU make of all of this?

For now, the EU has stayed silent over the latest chaos in Westminster.

They have been waiting for weeks for Mr Johnson to come up with new concrete proposals on how to sort out the Irish backstop issue – the main sticking point to getting the divorce deal done.

EU leaders say no meaningful negotiations have been happening – something the opposition say proves Mr Johnson wants to crash out of the bloc by running down the time on the clock.

There was disquiet from EU officials in March and again in April when Mrs May wanted to extend the Brexit period.

It may be that they refuse to extend the period – which needs the consent of all 27 EU states – or they attach some tough conditions to it.

Is Parliament still going to be prorogued?

Parliament is set to be prorogued on either Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday of next week.

Jacob Rees-Mogg has been coy about when it will happen, leading to suspicions the Tories will push for even more attempts to call a snap election if Monday’s vote fails again.

The issue is still being challenged by Gina Miller in London’s High Court, even though a Scottish judge has said it is a legal move.

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