Defence Secretary Ben Wallace was caught on a hot mic today suggesting the real reason Boris Johnson suspended Parliament is so that he can deliver Brexit.
Mr Wallace appeared to be oblivious to the camera just feet away as he told his French counterpart, Florence Parly, at a meeting in Helsinki: ‘Parliament has been very good at saying what it doesn’t want but it has been awful at saying what it wants. That’s the reality.
‘So you know any leader has to, you know, try. I don’t know what the outcome of it … (laughter). Oh politics.’
Remain MPs are frantically trying to muster parliamentary support against Mr Johnson’s fragile majority to prevent Brexit on October 31.
The Tories have a working majority of just one seat in the Commons which makes it difficult to pass any legislation, let alone something as divisive as Brexit.
Mr Johnson’s stunning decision to prorogue Parliament dramatically reduces the amount of time which MPs will have to try to stop a No Deal split when they return from their summer holidays next week.
The Prime Minister secured permission from the Queen to prorogue Parliament at some point in the week beginning September 9 until October 14.
Contrary to what Mr Wallace said, Mr Johnson claims it is ‘completely untrue’ to suggest Brexit is the reason for his prorogation of Parliament, arguing that he needs a Queen’s Speech to set out a ‘very exciting agenda’ of domestic policies.
Ben Wallace appeared to be oblivious to the camera just feet away as he told his French counterpart at a meeting in Helsinki: ‘Parliament has been very good at saying what it doesn’t want but it has been awful at saying what it wants. That’s the reality.’
Mr Wallace laughed as he explained Mr Johnson’s predicament to France’s defence minister Florence Parly at a meeting in Helsinki on Thursday
Mr Johnson outlined his decision to prorogue Parliament in a letter sent to every MP yesterday morning
Remain MPs are expected to focus their efforts on trying to seize control of the Commons and pass a law which would force the PM to ask Brussels to delay Brexit if no agreement has been struck by the Halloween deadline.
Mr Wallace also explained the intricacies of Westminster to France’s Ms Parly in the hot mic incident today: ‘Our system is a winner takes all system. If you win a parliamentary majority you control everything, you control the timetable. There’s no written separation.
‘So it’s, you pretty much are in command of the whole thing. And we’ve suddenly found ourselves with no majority and no coalition, and that’s not easy for our system.’
The reduced parliamentary timetable has focused minds in the so-called ‘Remain Alliance’ with MPs meeting behind closed doors to determine how best to stop No Deal.
It is thought they will seek an emergency Standing Order 24 debate next Tuesday, their first day back, which will allow them to vote and then take control of the Commons.
They are then expected to try to crash through an anti-No Deal law before Mr Johnson prorogues Parliament the following week.
Downing Street is expected to do everything it possibly can to slow down the passage of any draft legislation in the hope that the MPs will run out of time.
Plans reportedly under consideration by Number 10 include asking Eurosceptic peers to filibuster any rebel legislation put before them and even telling the Queen not to give the law Royal Assent if it was to clear the Commons and the House of Lords.
A diagram showing what could happen next after Boris Johnson announced that Parliament would be prorogued from mid-September until a Queen’s Speech in mid-October
Demonstrators waving EU flags and shouting ‘stop the coup’ brought traffic to a standstill in central London last night
The Prime Minister has faced a furious backlash since Wednesday’s bombshell announcement, including court bids in London, Edinburgh and Belfast to halt the prorogation of Parliament.
What happens now with the Brexit process in Parliament?
Here are the key dates in the countdown to October 31, when the UK is due to leave the European Union with or without a deal.
September 3: MPs return to the House of Commons for first session after summer recess.
September 4: Chancellor Sajid Javid due to make Commons statement on Government spending in 2020/21.
September 9: Parliament likely to begin process for prorogation.
September 10: Parliament likely to be prorogued until October 14.
September 14: Liberal Democrat party conference begins in Bournemouth. Jo Swinson likely to give speech on September 17.
September 21: Labour party conference begins in Brighton. Jeremy Corbyn likely to give speech on September 25.
September 29: Conservative party conference begins in Manchester. Boris Johnson likely to give speech on October 2.
October 14: State Opening of Parliament, including Queen’s Speech.
October 17/18: EU summit in Brussels.
October 21/22: Parliament likely to hold series of votes on Queen’s Speech.
October 31: UK due to leave EU.
And in a further headache for Mr Johnson, popular Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson stepped down after eight years during which she has revived her party’s fortunes.
Ms Davidson, who supported staying in the EU, urged Mr Johnson to clinch a deal with Brussels and mentioned the ‘conflict I have felt over Brexit’ in her resignation letter.
In addition to the loss of Ms Davidson, the PM suffered his first resignation over the prorogation plan this morning as Lord Young, a government whip, quit and said he was ‘very unhappy at the timing and length of the prorogation’.
Mr Johnson’s opponents have labelled the suspension of Parliament a ‘coup’ and a ‘constitutional outrage’.
However, the government is believed to be considering all manner of devices and ploys to slow down the rebels and ensure that they run out of time.
Downing Street appears to be increasingly confident that MPs will either run out of time or fail to unite in large enough numbers to succeed.
Mr Johnson has promised to take Britain out of the bloc on October 31 ‘do or die’ and with or without a deal. His preference remains leaving with an agreement.
The PM was accused of behaving like a ‘tinpot dictator’ by angry MPs yesterday and today Jacob Rees-Mogg fanned the flames as he laid down a challenge to Remainers.
Mr Rees-Mogg told the BBC: ‘All these people who are wailing and gnashing of teeth know that there are two ways of doing what they want to do.
‘One, is to change the government and the other is to change the law. If they do either of those will that will then have an effect.
Mr Rees-Mogg, pictured in Westminster this morning, said MPs would have to show ‘courage and gumption’ if they are to stop Boris Johnson’s Brexit plan
‘If they don’t have either the courage or the gumption to do either of those then we will leave on the 31st of October in accordance with the referendum result.’
The Commons Speaker John Bercow and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn both said Mr Johnson’s decision represented a constitutional outrage.
But Mr Rees-Mogg said the British constitution is ‘a robust and flexible one’ which can ‘bend to the passing storm as it has done over previous centuries’.
Writing in The Telegraph today, the Commons Leader also laid the blame for the current situation squarely at the door of Remain-backing MPs.
He said: ‘There is no constitutional crisis except that caused by those who voted for the referendum, then supported the use of Article 50 and backed the Withdrawal Act.
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell addressed anti-prorogation protestors gathered in Parliament Square yesterday evening
‘Every one of these had comfortable parliamentary majorities, often backed by those who now cry out that following a plebiscite is undemocratic. This is untrue and unconstitutional.’
Mr Rees-Mogg played an instrumental role in Mr Johnson’s plan to prorogue Parliament as he flew to Balmoral Castle in Scotland yesterday to present the PM’s proposal to the Queen in person.
He was then one of three members of the Privy Council – a committee which advises the Queen on political matters – present yesterday afternoon when the monarch approved the order to suspend Parliament.
The PM outlined his decision to suspend Parliament in a letter sent to MPs yesterday morning.
In the letter he said: ‘This morning I spoke to Her Majesty The Queen to request an end to the current parliamentary session in the second sitting week in September, before commencing the second session of this Parliament with a Queen’s speech on Monday 14 October.
‘A central feature of the legislative programme will be the Government’s number one legislative priority, if a new deal is forthcoming at EU Council, to introduce a Withdrawal Agreement Bill and move at pace to secure its passage before 31 October.’
Mr Johnson said the weeks leading up to the European Council would be ‘vitally important for the sake of my negotiations with the EU’ in a sign that he does not want MPs to do anything to derail his hopes of striking an agreement.