Jacob Rees-Mogg said in our most recent Moggcast that, as matters stood then, approval of a Brexit trade deal could take place in six days. It was recorded last Monday.
He added that this six day timetable could be “squeezed”, and that Parliament “managed to pass legislation to remove the King-Emperor in 24 hours”.
This suggested a trade-off: the later any deal is struck, the greater the compression of time. Commons, Lords and Royal Assent – the Government could ask for all in a day.
One source claims that a final draft agreement document consists of 800 pages of main text and a thousand pages of annexes of protocols. But whatever the length of such a treaty might be, it certainly wouldn’t be an easy read.
This being so, it is hard to see how MPs could properly consider such a document in six days – let alone in 24 hours. At which point, consider another matter: the interaction between Parliament and the introduction of the new Tier Four restrictions in London.
At present, only a limited number of MPs can participate in the Chamber to consider a Bill. What were Parliament to be recalled and that number to be further reduced, or MPs asked to speak instead via screens from home?
There would be obvious implications for interventions, and therefore the quality of debate – and therefore too the efficacy of scrutiny of the legislation.
Sources that ConservativeHome has spoken to refuse to rule out any proposed Government change to the present procedures in the event of Parliament being recalled.
One senior European Research Group source described attempting to get a Brexit trade through the Commons and Lords in a few days on a truncated procedure as “a double train crash”.
Backbench trust will not have been boosted by Mark Spencer telling MPs that Parliament can only be recalled for Brexit legislation. Downing Street clearly wants to avoid any vote on the Tier Four measure if a recall takes place.
However, the Chief Whip is clearly mistaken. The Government can recall Parliament for any reason it wishes. Does the Speaker have a view?
Furthermore, some backbenchers believe that Ministers have waited to impose Tier Four, and the new Tier Three restrictions, until Parliament was no longer sitting.
All in all, MPs should certainly be recalled, so that they can vote on the new tiering arrangements, and debate them – however briefly. Whether they now have time to consider any Brexit Trade Bill before the New Year is a different matter.