Boris Johnson has staked his Premiership on delivering Brexit by the deadline of 31 October. Here is how it can be accomplished.
1. Do nothing
Although Parliament has passed indicative votes voicing an opposition to a WTO Brexit (aka, a no deal Brexit), this is far from a mandate from Parliament to pause or stop Brexit. As the Leader of The House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg made clear (as backed up by Attorney General Geoffrey Cox), the position in law is that unless a deal is reached between the UK and EU and then approved by the UK Parliament by the 31st of October, the default legal position is for the UK to leave the EU on WTO terms.
This itself demonstrates the duplicity of Theresa May’s government which twice asked the EU to extend the previously mutually agreed Brexit deadline under the false assumption that Parliament’s indicative vote on rejecting a “no deal Brexit” was a mandate for the government to effectively beg Brussels for an extension. The position of the Johnson government has exposed May’s duplicity over a matter of days.
The only means in which a WTO Brexit as a matter of statuary law could be contravened would be for Parliament to repeal its previous decision to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty or otherwise for a vote of no confidence to pass the House of Commons which would then have to lead to a pro-Brussels government taking power before 31 October. Both of these scenarios remain unlikely.
2. Reach a new deal
It remains the position of Boris Johnson’s government to try and reach a new deal with Brussels before the 31st of October. Whilst the EU claims that its position will not budge, Brussels has been known to have last minute changes of mind in order to protect the business interests of European companies in general and German ones in particular.
Although many claim it is unlikely, if the EU and UK reach a new deal and this deal is approved by the UK Parliament prior to 31 October, this would in many ways be the least contentious (in Parliamentary terms) means of achieving Brexit by the deadline. That being said, if a would-be new deal is found by the Brexit Party to be too similar to Theresa May’s rejected deal, Nigel Farage would gear his party up to challenge Johnson’s Tories at the next general election.
3. Call a general election prior to the 31st of October
Although time is ticking on this option and although Boris Johnson has recently ruled such an option out, it is still possible that a pre-November election would result in a Tory majority that would help Boris Johnson to achieve Brexit with a greater deal of ease before the 31st of October. Such an election victory for Johnson would be made much easier if as Donald Trump implied, Boris Johnson makes a 1918 style couple style electoral pact with Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party.
4. Call for a November general election that would prorogue Parliament in mid-October
Since it is the legal position of the government that a WTO terms Brexit will automatically happen on the 31st of October in the absence of a deal or a revocation of Article 50, Boris Johnson could try to dissolve Parliament and call for a Brexit General Election – a Khaki election for the 21st century.
In such a circumstance, Brexit would occur as a matter of law during the official campaign process and whichever party formed a government after the election would be left to actually deal with governing Brexit Britain.
Whilst such a tactic is a gamble, if Johnson’s party were to win (with or without a pact with the Brexit Party) Brexit itself would be accomplished via statute and a more comfortable majority behind Johnson could carry forward with his other policies including working on a free trading agreement with an EU whose corporations would be desperate to avoid British import tariffs.
Although it still might be possible for the government to simply prorogue Parliament in mid or late October in order for a WTO Brexit to be accomplished via statute, a previous vote in the Commons has made such a process difficult whilst it appears Johnson’s government is not keen on such a move. Therefore the aforementioned four options are the most likely ways in which the government of Boris Johnson can achieve Brexit by the deadline.