Brexit: First Saturday sitting of parliament since Falklands crisis

Brexit: First Saturday sitting of parliament since Falklands crisis

Labour MPs are exploring ways to revive Theresa May’s Brexit proposals at the first Saturday sitting of parliament for 37 years if Boris Johnson fails to strike a deal with Brussels. Supporters of the idea believe that it could avoid the potential chaos of a no-deal Brexit.

The prime minister is preparing to summon MPs for an extraordinary weekend sitting after an EU summit next week. He will convene the Commons on a Saturday for only the fourth time in 80 years and the first time since the Falkland Islands were invaded in 1982.

Midnight on Saturday, October 19, is the deadline under the Benn act for Mr Johnson to ask the EU for a third delay to Brexit. MPs are expected to be called back whether or not a deal has been reached. If an agreement is secured, the Saturday sitting will be an opportunity for MPs to debate it. Otherwise the prime minister is expected to set out how he plans to take Britain out of the EU 12 days later.

Labour MPs opposed to a no-deal are understood to be considering reviving Mrs May’s proposals, plus concessions on workers’ rights.

Supporters of the idea are split on whether to include a confirmatory referendum to secure a majority — thousands of people are to march in central London that day in support of the People’s Vote campaign. MPs also admit that they would need government backing for the deal because the proposals involve spending public money, which only ministers can authorise.

Advocates of the idea hope that the move could reveal a version of a Brexit deal that MPs could support. “The charge has always been that MPs will only say what they don’t want,” a proponent said. “This could be a way to show what they will support.”

Supporters also admit that the move could come as opposition parties launch an attempt to replace the prime minister with a government of national unity. Opposition parties have said that a caretaker government would prevent a no-deal Brexit before calling a general election.

Polls suggest, however, that an election could simply return a hung parliament.

The Brussels summit on October 17 and 18 is the last scheduled meeting of EU leaders before Britain is meant to leave on October 31.

The Commons last sat on a Saturday in April 1982, at the start of the Falklands conflict. The Saturday sitting before that was in November 1956 amid the Suez crisis.

The Commons also sat on a Saturday in July 1949 to complete business before the summer recess, and in September 1939, the day before Britain declared war on Germany.

Kate Devlin Chief y Henry Zeffman