The Government has tabled a bill to delay any new election to the Northern Ireland Assembly while power-sharing talks continue. The proposed bill, being put to the Commons today, could see a future NI assembly election pushed back until at least October 21, possibly even January next year. Former attorney general Dominic Grieve told the BBC the bill is a “perfectly legitimate place” to look at ways to stop a no-deal Brexit.
He said: “We’re going to have, in the course of the next 24 hours, an important bill on Northern Ireland.
“Northern Ireland and Brexit go rather closely together.
“The chances are, if Brexit goes through – a no-deal Brexit – it is going to be the end of Northern Ireland’s union with the United Kingdom, with serious political consequences flowing from it.
“That’s a bill that is a perfectly legitimate place to start looking at how one might make sure no-deal Brexits are fully debated before they take place.”
The Parliamentary vote comes ahead of another week of political hustings in the Tory leadership race between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt.
Both politicians have vowed to honour Brexit, even if this means leaving the European Union (EU) without having a deal in place.
Parliament remains divided over the idea and negotiations are happening to prevent a no-deal Brexit from going ahead, according to Justice minister David Gauke.
He said: “Given where the parliamentary majority is and the strength of feeling on a no deal Brexit, I think there probably will be a parliamentary way in which this can be stopped.v
“There is an element of uncertainty about it but I think the likelihood is that parliament will find a mechanism somehow.”
Mr Gauke’s comments come amid claims more than 30 Tory MPs could vote against a no-deal Brexit, according to former Tory leadership candidate Sam Gyimah.
The MP for East Surrey said opponents were investigating possible legislative options to prevent the UK from exiting the EU without a managed deal in place.
The new Prime Minister – whether that is Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt – can try to avoid further future binding votes in the House of Commons on a no-deal Brexit.
But should they try to follow this path they may be thwarted by Speaker of the House John Bercow who has already made it clear he intends for MPs to have their say.
Speaking in May, the Speaker said it was “unimaginable” that the House would have no sway.
If the elected Prime Minister tries to ignore this, it could lead to a no-confidence vote or the possibility of an early general election.
However, no party is likely to want that given how fragmented the current political landscape is right now.