Jack Lopresti: On delivering Brexit and proroguing Parliament

Jack Lopresti’s latest column on Brexit and Prorogation:

Usually I write my columns on the basis of a local issue, or how a national issue connects to our local community, but this month I want to address the critical national issue of leaving the European Union.

Many are tired of hearing it, indeed I’m tired of saying it, but the referendum result must be honoured, no ifs or buts. I cannot understand why we have not yet left the European Union. Parliament voted to give voters the final say and to hold the referendum, with 83% of MPs returned in 2017 having stood on manifestos promising to faithfully implement the clear instruction given to them by the electorate to take the UK out of the EU, myself included.

I personally support the Prime Minister’s decision to prorogue Parliament, although of course the final decision on the lawfulness of the decision rests with the Supreme Court. Prorogation signifies the end of the parliamentary session. An ordinary parliamentary session would usually last no longer than 200 days. The 2010-12 session under the Coalition Government lasted 295 days and that was exceptional in its own right and virtually unprecedented, as records from the Parliamentary library show.

This current parliamentary session has now run for more than 340 days, making it the longest session for nearly 500 years. The last time Parliament sat for this long was the Rump Parliament which ran until 1653 under Oliver Cromwell; it is truly extraordinary that the current parliamentary session should have run so long.

As some readers might know, the Government sets out its priorities and what it hopes to deliver in the next parliamentary session through the Queen’s Speech. In order for a Queen’s Speech to take place, Parliament has to be prorogued to end the current session. When Gordon Brown took over from Tony Blair in 2007, he also prorogued Parliament in order to hold a fresh Queen’s Speech to set out his Government’s priorities. Until he prorogued Parliament, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Government was sitting in Theresa May’s Parliamentary session, under Theresa May’s Government’s Queen’s Speech, which is drastically different from what Mr Johnson is looking to achieve. I believe it would be wrong not to have prorogued Parliament at this point in order to allow Mr Johnson’s new Government the opportunity to set out their policy agenda and begin the process of enacting it in a new parliamentary session.

The Government has been clear in its desire to set out a new vision and priorities for addressing violent crime, investing in the NHS, and helping people with the cost of living. The Government has equally been clear that there will be time following the State Opening of Parliament to debate and discuss Brexit and other issues. Instead he has opted to allow Parliament time to discuss the matter and hopefully to agree a deal, should the European Union be willing to make a compromise prior to the 31st October deadline.

The Government’s position – which I heartily endorse – is to leave the European Union by 31stOctober, with a deal if at all possible. However, getting a good deal also relies on our colleagues in the European Union being willing to offer one, and if they refuse to do that then they cannot be allowed to veto the clear instruction given to MPs by the largest democratic exercise in British history.

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