Protest outside the Houses of Parliament in London

Parliament rejects early election before suspension; Prime Minister liable to seek ways of forcing Brexit – UK Analysis

Executive Summary

Parliament passed legislation to require PM Boris Johnson to ask for a Brexit delay if no deal is agreed upon with the EU before October 19.

Johnson stated that he will not ask for an extension, with concerns growing that he will attempt force through a no-deal exit on October 31.

This will likely lead to legal challenges and an early election, possibly before the end of 2019.

Daily protests are ongoing in central London around Parliament, with further protests carrying the potential for unrest between pro- and anti-Brexit supporters.

Those operating or residing in the UK are advised to take precautions to prepare for the various Brexit eventualities and follow local updates. 

Please be advised

Brexit & Political Developments

Both Houses of Parliament voted in favor of legislation that requires Prime Minister Boris Johnson to request an extension to the current October 31 deadline for the UK to leave the EU if no deal is agreed upon before October 19. The Parliament is currently prorogued, suspended, until October 14, on which date there will be a Queen’s Speech to layout the Government’s agenda. The European Council is scheduled to meet on October 17-18.

On September 9, Parliament again rejected the Government’s attempt to hold an early election before the October 31 deadline. Reports indicate that following the vote, a number of opposition Labour Members of Parliament (MPs) protested inside the legislative chamber as the official ceremony to suspend Parliament was underway, including attempting to stop Speaker John Bercow from leaving the chamber as is required.

Bercow announced that he will resign from the position on October 31 following reports that the Conservative Party will run against him in the next election, which is against the tradition of sitting speakers running unopposed by the major parties.

The Government stated that it will aim to reach a deal before the deadline and would “test to the limit” the law requiring Johnson to request an extension from the EU, although what steps it would take were not elaborated. MPs are reportedly preparing legal action should Johnson force through a no-deal exit on October 31.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian stated on September 8 that the EU was concerned about the lack of a clear proposal from the UK regarding the Irish-border issue, and stated that the negotiations could not be extended “every three months”.

On September 9, Johnson met with Irish leader Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to discuss the border issue, who stated that without the ‘backstop’ there will be no withdrawal deal with the EU. The backstop refers to a section within the Brexit deal which would keep Northern Ireland within the EU customs union should a way of avoiding a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, with security and customs checks, not be found by the end of the transition period.

Civil Unrest

Protests in favor and against Brexit have taken place outside Parliament in London on a daily basis in the past week, with attendances ranging between the mid-hundreds to high thousands. On September 7, members of the pro-Brexit Democratic Football Lads Alliance (DFLA) scuffled with police and anti-Brexit demonstrators in Parliament Square. Senior opposition MPs have taken part in these protests.

Reports indicate that an estimated 5,300 protesters gathered to call for Welsh independence in Merthyr Tydfil on September 7. Also on September 7, an estimated 15,000 people protested in favor of Scottish independence in Perth. Both demonstrations were staged by the All Under One Banner (AUOB) organization. In March, the leader of the Welsh nationalist Plaid Cymru party stated the party could seek to hold an independence referendum following Brexit.

Northern Ireland

Security forces reportedly arrested an individual under the “Terrorism Act,” in Strabane, Northern Ireland on September 8 following the discovery of an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). Residents of the Church View area were evacuated from their homes after the discovery prompted a security alert.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) also stated that over 40 petrol bombs and other projectiles were thrown at its vehicles on September 9 during an operation in Londonderry, locally referred to as Derry. Roughly 80 officers were reportedly responding to a bomb alert, with reports indicating that a mortar-type device was found, allegedly planted by the New Irish Republican Army (New IRA). The PSNI stated the majority of those throwing projectiles were youths.

Assessments & Forecast

Based on recent statements, the Government is likely to seek an alternative to the backstop in the coming weeks. However, given repeated rejections of previous proposals and the unlikelihood of a plausible alternative manifesting in the short time period, a compromise is unlikely to be found before the October 19 deadline to agree to a new deal.

As such, Johnson will be required by the recently passed legislation to request an extension, which, despite Drian’s statement, would likely be accepted by the EU, with a possible new deadline in January 2020. However, Johnson may attempt to find an alternative way to avoid enacting the law and forcing through a no-deal Brexit. Media reports suggest that he could hold a no-confidence vote in his own government, which could force no other Parliamentary business for several weeks in late October. Should he attempt to force through a no-deal Brexit, MPs will launch legal challenges against him, as well as call for his resignation. Nonetheless, if a request is not made and accepted by the EU before October 31, the default remains that the UK will leave on that date.

Regardless of the outcome, whether Brexit is delayed or Johnson is able to force it through in October, an election is likely to occur within the coming months, potentially before the end of 2019. At present, it is unclear how such a vote would unfold, due to the potential impact of an extension or a no-deal Brexit on voter intentions.

Protests are expected to continue in the vicinity of Parliament including in Parliament Square, along Whitehall, and outside Ministry buildings in London over the coming weeks, despite Parliament’s suspension. These are likely to continue taking place during the afternoon and evening hours each day, with attendances remaining between the mid-hundreds and low thousands on weekdays, and possibly rising to the high thousands at weekends. Furthermore, larger protests, potentially in the hundreds of thousands, are liable in London between mid-to-late October. These protests have the potential to witness further incidents of unrest between protesters on both sides and security forces. Therefore, an increased security and police presence should be expected in the area over the coming months.

With regard to the protests in Scotland and Wales, there is likely to be a significant push for a second Scottish independence referendum over the coming months, regardless of the Brexit outcome. Based on recent developments, a second vote may take place in late 2020-early 2021, although the possibility of this occurring will be impacted by the makeup of the government following the expected early elections.

A Welsh independence vote is less likely to manifest, with the majority of the population still hesitant over the proposition of independence. That said, a no-deal Brexit will increase support for a vote.

Given that the uptick in violence and republican paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland is widely attributed to tensions regarding Brexit, specifically, the backstop and possibility of a hard-border, further attacks on security forces and government locations are expected in the coming months.


Those operating or residing in the UK are advised to take precautions to prepare for the various Brexit eventualities and follow local updates.

Maintain vigilance in the vicinity of Brexit-related demonstrations in the coming months due to the potential for localized unrest.

Those operating or residing in London should anticipate travel disruptions and heightened security measures in the vicinity of Parliament due to ongoing protests.

For more information on the current Brexit possibilities and situation please contact [email protected].