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August 14, 2019

Legal bid to scuttle no deal fast-tracked

Top Story

August 14, 2019

LONDON: Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit plans could be blown off course early next month after a judge agreed to fast-track a hearing on whether he can legally suspend Parliament to force through a no-deal exit.

Anti-Brexit campaigners — including more than 70 MPs and peers — filed a petition at the Court of Session in Edinburgh to attempt to stop Johnson from being able to prorogue Parliament.

Judge Lord Raymond Doherty agreed to expedite the timetable for the legal challenge to take place, setting the date for the substantive hearing as Friday September 6 — in what is shaping up to be a tumultuous week in Westminster.

MPs will return from their summer break on Tuesday September 3, and Labour could call a confidence vote in the government any day that week. The following day, the government will provide a progress report on power-sharing in Northern Ireland, which will be debated within five days.

A government source said Downing Street anticipated that Monday September 9 — when MPs are likely to discuss the report in the Commons — could be the first major legislative showdown over a no-deal Brexit.

Some insiders speculate that the European Union is watching and waiting to see the outcome of any bids to prevent a no-deal Brexit in the Commons before it considers making amendments to the beleaguered Withdrawal Agreement.

Downing Street reiterated on Monday that Johnson remains “very clear in his determination to want to get a deal” and said he will hold talks with EU leaders over the phone in the coming days. It comes after Donald Trump’s national security adviser said the UK would be “first in line” for a trade deal with the US, possibly on a gradual “sector-by-sector” basis, after Brexit.

Speaking following a meeting with Johnson during a visit to London, John Bolton said the US could focus on striking bilateral trade deals in certain sectors like manufacturing and car-making where the two countries may agree, and work out more complicated areas later.

Bolton said: “The main purpose of the visit really is to convey President Trump’s desire to see a successful exit from the European Union for the United Kingdom on October 31, to offer to be of help in any way that we can, and to express his hope we can have a fully comprehensive bilateral trade agreement with the United Kingdom as soon as possible.” He added: “To be clear, in the Trump administration, Britain’s constantly at the front of the trade queue, or line as we say.”

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