The significance of Yvette Cooper’s bill to stop a no-deal Brexit

It took just one day for MPs to take control of parliament, and get Royal Assent for a bill that it forced through without the consent of the executive.

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Yvette Cooper’s bill to force the government to seek an extension to the Article 50 process has passed both Houses of Parliament and received royal assent, which means that it will now come into force. As such, MPs will have another parliamentary vote tonight, to amend the length of the extension that the PM is seeking. 

Also today: Theresa May has hopped on an EasyJet and is meeting with Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron as she tries to win support for an extension to the Article 50 process, which requires the unanimous backing of every single EU member state. As for the length, that is in the gift of the EU27, not Theresa May.

So what’s the point of the Cooper Bill? It compels the Prime Minister to do something she is already doing. There’s a remote but not impossible chance that it could complicate matters if MPs vote for a short transition, something they have no prospect of getting, and the EU27 decide that there is no hope of an exit deal being negotiated any time soon. A bill to stop no deal could yet precipitate no deal.

But the main use of the Bill is as a proof-of-concept: we now know how long it would take parliament to force through a bill without the consent of the executive. That means that should, at a later date, with a different prime minister and the same parliament, a majority emerge to force another delay or to revoke Article 50, backbench MPs now know how much time they need.

And that’s much more important than anything that’s actually in the Cooper Bill.

Stephen Bush is political editor of the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

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