Analysis: Parliament suspended and Brexit delayed - what happens now?

Opposition MPs protest as parliament is officially prorogued for five weeks
Opposition MPs protest as parliament is officially prorogued for five weeks
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The UK Parliament has been shut down. What happens next, asks Westminster correspondent Paris Gourtsoyannis

The ceremonial mace has been removed, the Commons chamber is empty, MPs are drifting away back to their constituencies and even the protesters who have become permanent residents on College Green appear to have been prorogued.

Nothing is going to happen at parliament for five weeks. But that doesn’t mean nothing is going on at all - away from the Commons, events are going to build towards a clash when MPs return on 14 October that will make the pushing and shoving around the Speaker’s chair on Monday night look tame by comparison.

MPs won’t be treating the next five weeks as time off. An election is coming, most likely in November, and being away from parliament gives them extra time to knock on doors in their constituencies. Leaflets are being printed and parliamentarians will be retracing the route of the summer recess tours of their seats - particularly in Scotland, where so many seats are marginals, and Labour and the Conservatives know they have everything to lose in a snap election.

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It will be an uncomfortable time for those Tory MPs who didn't rebel against the government but feel deeply unhappy at the strategy being orchestrated by Johnson and his top adviser, Dominic Cummings.

The government was outmaneuvered in the Commons at every stage over the past two weeks, but Downing Street believes the key part of its strategy has been reinforced: Boris Johnson can blame Labour and the other opposition parties for forcing a Brexit delay and frustrating the will of the people. That message will be hammered home over the next five weeks, not least at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester at the start of October - all three party conferences will become election rallies.

Johnson has to keep up the appearance of seeking a breakthrough with the EU, and more bilateral talks between the Prime Minister and European leaders are set for the coming weeks. But in London, Brussels and Dublin, the signs are only getting stronger that an agreement on the UK’s terms is impossible. Accepting a Northern Ireland-only backstop that creates a trade barrier in the Irish Sea is likely to lose the government its support from the DUP - to say nothing of the Scottish Tories. Ruth Davidson threatened to resign over the possibility of different trade terms within the UK because of the boost could give to the SNP’s case for Scottish independence. And while it offers possibly the only avenue to a Brexit deal, a Withdrawal Agreement with any form of backstop would still be expected to be rejected by MPs.

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Meanwhile, opposition parties and campaigners will be marshalling resources for a legal challenge if Johnson follows through on his threat and refuses to request a Brexit extension as demanded by parliament. And EU governments like France will themselves continue to talk tough over whether they will grant an extension, to keep the pressure up ahead of a crucial 17 October summit.

It all means that when MPs return on 14 October, the political tension will be greater than at any point since the EU referendum. Opposition parties will vote down the Queen’s Speech when it comes to a vote, probably on 21 October, and swiftly move on to a vote of no confidence in Johnson’s government.

It may be that resigning and letting Jeremy Corbyn take power, propped up by opposition and rebel MPs, is the best way of passing the blame for a Brexit delay on to Labour. More likely, the Prime Minister will continue goading the opposition into giving him an election - and go into what could be the nastiest, most brutal election campaign anyone can remember.