Boris Johnson becomes prime minister - July 2019
After a hotly-contested leadership race, Boris Johnson emerged victorious from an initially saturated field of candidates. He secured Britain’s top job with 92,153 votes from Conservative Party members out of a possible 159,320. His opponent in the final two, Jeremy Hunt, secured 46,656.
Now Mr Johnson will have three months to secure a Brexit deal that the Commons approves of, or he could face a similar fate to his predecessor, Theresa May.
Parliament prorogued – September 2019
A little over a month into Boris Johnson’s premiership, he announced that he would be proroguing (suspending) parliament at the close of business on 9 September to prepare for a Queen’s Speech and the formal opening of a new parliamentary session on 14 October. Many criticised the prime minister for suspending parliament so close to the departure date of 31 October and said that it was a way for him to bulldoze through his Brexit plan without interference.
MPs vote to prevent a no-deal Brexit – September 2019
MPs voted on 9 September, before the prorogation came into effect, to prevent a no-deal Brexit. The result of the vote represented a significant loss to Johnson, who now has until 19 October to get a new deal passed in parliament, or to get MPs to back a no-deal Brexit.
If this deadline passes with both of these options being rejected, the prime minister will have to request an extension to the UK’s departure date until 31 January 2020.
Parliament resumes after prorogation ruled unlawful – September 2019
Following the prorogation of parliament, opposition to the decision by Johnson became so fierce that a legal challenge was submitted to the Supreme Court to get the suspension of parliament overruled. A decision was reached on 24 September, in which the 11 justices unanimously declared that the prorogation had been unlawful, meaning parliament was free to resume.
PM submits new plans to Brussels and prorogues parliament – October 2019
Boris Johnson submitted what some called a last-ditch plan to the EU in early October, in an attempt to resolve the Irish border issue. The prime minister’s plan is for Northern Ireland to stay in the EU customs union for all industrial and agricultural goods. This arrangement would be subject to the approval of the Northern Ireland Assembly in Stormont, which would need to approve it for a transition period and then every four years.
However, for all other industries, Northern Ireland would leave the EU customs union, while the rest of the UK will leave the EU customs union entirely. Theoretically, this would eliminate lengthy delays at border checkpoints on the island of Ireland. The plan was received with apprehension in the EU, but European leaders recognised the concessions made by the British government.
Following the submittal of his new Brexit plan, the prime minister prorogued parliament on 8 October to allow the government time to prepare for a Queen’s speech and the beginning of a new parliamentary session, which took place on 14 October. The parliamentary session before this prorogation was the longest in British history, lasting 839 days.
Boris Johnson agrees Brexit deal with the EU – October 2019
A Brexit deal was agreed between Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on 17 October. The deal is a modified version of the prime minister’s earlier proposal, which removes the Irish backstop – one of the most contentious talking points in previous versions of the withdrawal agreement.
Instead, Northern Ireland will remain in the UK customs territory and, at the same time, be classified as a point of entry into the EU customs union. Under the agreement, the UK will not enforce tariffs to products entering Northern Ireland, so long as they are not intended for shipment across the Irish border.
This arrangement will be up for review every four years by Stormont, at which point there will be a vote to decide whether to continue with the trade arrangements or not. Unlike other votes in Northern Ireland, this will only require a simple majority to pass, rather than the usual majority in both the unionist and nationalist parties.
At this stage, the deal has not been granted legislative approval by either the House of Commons or the European Parliament. To achieve this, votes will need to be held in both of these institutions, and the outcome will determine whether Boris Johnson’s efforts to negotiate a new Brexit deal have been successful. Currently, MPs are sceptical about whether the prime minister has the necessary numbers to ensure his deal is approved.
Commons grants assent for withdrawal agreement bill to be debated during second reading – October 2019
The Commons granted assent for Boris Johnson’s withdrawal agreement to be debated and voted on, but only once it had been properly scrutinised. MPs declared that a timetable which included a 31 October departure did not allow enough time for the 110-page document to be properly considered and, if necessary, amended.
As a result, Boris Johnson ‘paused’ the legislative process on his withdrawal agreement, causing speculation to mount around whether he will push for an early general election.