In Depth

Commons MPs sent home early with ‘nothing to do’

Legislative logjam as Brexit impasse grinds on with just 50 days to go

The Government has come under fire after Members of Parliament were invited to head home after only four hours of sitting yesterday, in the absence of any scheduled debates or votes.

Official business began at 11.30am and came to an end at 3.27pm. The early finish comes despite there being just 50 days to go until the UK exits the EU, and only days after Commons leader Andrea Leadsom “cancelled MPs’ week-long recess in February in order to make progress with critical legislation”, says The Independent.

The political logjam over Brexit “appears to be putting the Government’s legislation on hold in the aftermath of Theresa May’s deal being crushed by a historic margin”, the newspaper adds.

Commentators were quick to register their surprise at the decision with Sky News's Lewis Goodall tweeting that “it's not like there's a ticking clock to all this either”.

Predictably the decision to head home caused uproar on the opposition benches.

Labour’s Diana Johnson said the situation was “bang out of order”, and yesterday wrote on Twitter: “Considering Brexit is just 51 days away this is totally irresponsible!”

The party’s Commons leader Valerie Vaz added: “This government has no vision, no new ideas and crucially no legislation to fill the Parliamentary timetable.”

SNP chief whip Patrick Gray added his voice to the calls of derision, claiming: “Seemingly the Tory government thinks there’s nothing worth debating or discussing.”

Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine added: “Brexit is looking like a colossal disaster and Parliament is finishing for the day when most people are only coming back from lunch. The country’s future is at stake, and it’s about time the national interest took priority.”

The problem lies in the fact that “the Government cannot bring any of its main Brexit legislation to the Commons until it knows whether or not there will be a deal and, if there is a deal, what it will entail”, says The Guardian’s Andrew Sparrow.

Indeed, there may be more early finishes in the weeks ahead, as “May’s team admit there is virtually no chance of her agreeing a new deal before she makes a progress report to MPs on 13 February”, says the Financial Times. Many MPs “now expect the Brexit haggling to run well into March”, the newspaper adds.

Asked about the early adjournment, the prime minister’s official spokesperson said: “The business of the House is set out in advance, there have been days recently where they have been working beyond midnight dealing with statements and with debates on Brexit.”

Asked whether the situation was “embarrassing” for the Government, the representative added: “There is a lot of work going on in relation to Brexit.”

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