Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. Brexit
18 July 2019updated 07 Jun 2021 2:48pm

MPs hand chastening defeat to Boris Johnson, but the chances of no deal are still high

By Stephen Bush

This is your parliament on Boris Johnson: just weeks after opponents of a no-deal Brexit endured a chastening defeat in their attempts to thwart it, they have blocked the threatened suspension of parliament by 41 votes, with 315 votes for and just 274 votes in favour.

The reason? Simply put, because a critical mass of Conservative MPs now know that Johnson is not bluffing when he talks about taking the United Kingdom out of the European Union, deal or no deal, and rebelled in large enough numbers to defeat the government. Seventeen voted for the amendment, while 30 went absent without leave, including Philip Hammond, David Gauke, Rory Stewart and Greg Clark.

It underlines the difficulty that Johnson will have in keeping his promise that the UK will leave the EU by 31 October in this parliament. There has been a great deal of media oxygen given to the handful of Labour MPs who have said that they are willing to choose a no-deal Brexit over no Brexit at all. But the problem for Johnson is that the total number of Labour MPs who could ever contemplate that course of action is considerably smaller than the number of Conservative MPs who would vote to stop no-deal — and because many of that group are set to go to the backbenches when he takes office, that group is only going to get bigger.

But Johnson’s hopes of leaving the EU this side of an election are far from dead. The central problem is that while the group of MPs who oppose no-deal is in theory a large one, they disagree over how to stop it. The 315 votes in favour include every MP elected under Labour colours in 2017 bar Kate Hoey and Iain Austin. Johnson’s strategic bet has never been that there is no parliamentary majority to deplore no deal, to frustrate no deal and to seek to defer no deal. His bet has always been that majority cannot endure if it needs to take concrete action to prevent no deal, whether that be revoking Article 50 or forcing the executive to secure an extension. And we are no closer to knowing if that gamble is right or wrong.

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy

Content from our partners
The cost-of-living crisis is hitting small businesses – Liz Truss must act
How industry is key for net zero
How to ensure net zero brings good growth and green jobs