A sud­den change of gov­ern­ment

Sunday Express - - FRONT PAGE -

MPs) is reached, a vote of Con­ser­va­tive MPs is trig­gered. If she loses, Mrs May is barred from stand­ing in the elec­tion that then takes place for a new leader.

Could there be a gen­eral elec­tion? Be­fore the Fixed-term Par­lia­ments Act 2011, a PM could make a ma­jor vote an is­sue of con­fi­dence, mean­ing that if the vote was lost then ei­ther the Gov­ern­ment would re­sign or there would be a gen­eral elec­tion. Un­der the Act, the PM can no longer uni­lat­er­ally call an elec­tion. It re­quires ei­ther a two-third vote of all MPs that there be an early elec­tion, or a vote of no con­fi­dence be­ing car­ried (and within 14 days no new gov­ern­ment be­ing formed and win­ning a con­fi­dence vote).

The PM could say that, if she lost on Tues­day, she would ask the House for an early elec­tion but would be de­pen­dent on the votes of the very MPs who have re­belled and caused her to take that step.

One other sce­nario is for her to say that, if de­feated on the agree­ment, the Gov­ern­ment will re­sign. That would not en­gage any pro­vi­sion of the Act, so cre­at­ing ma­jor political uncer­tainty as to what would hap­pen next. The al­ter­na­tive would be the Op­po­si­tion mov­ing a vote of no con­fi­dence. Much would then de­pend on the votes of the DUP MPs.

In short, there could be a sit­u­a­tion of political and con­sti­tu­tional tur­moil, all while the clock ticks. How­ever MPs vote this week, the UK is leav­ing the EU on March 29 next year.

Philip Nor­ton (Lord Nor­ton of Louth) is Pro­fes­sor of Gov­ern­ment at the Univer­sity of Hull.

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