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Key Brexit questions remain as ugly scenes mark House suspension

  There was little headway in resolving the divisive Brexit imbroglio after a critical week that saw Prime Minister Boris Johnson facing six defeats in six days and unprecedented scenes in the House of Commons before Parliament was prorogued on Monday night.

The Johnson government was restricted in its actions when the opposition managed to pass a motion blocking it from leaving the EU on October 31 without an agreement, which makes it mandatory to ask Brussels for an extension to the Brexit date.

But Johnson reiterated his position that he would not ask for the extension. Amidst claims in Brussels and London that no efforts are on to seek an agreement, he insisted that he would try to reach one in the next few weeks, but would leave the EU without it.

The prime minister’s effort to trigger a mid-term election was again scuppered by the opposition, when his motion failed to get the two-thirds majority required. The opposition has made its support conditional to seeking an extension from Brussels to the Brexit date.

After Parliament’s prorogation until October 14, the focus shifts to parties holding their annual conferences. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair intervened on Tuesday to insist that the Brexit issue can only be resolved through another referendum, not election.

He said: “It is wrong as a matter of principle to mix the general election up with the specific Brexit question. If the British people end up having a general election on Brexit you are going to mix up issues that should be kept separate. What Boris Johnson thinks is ‘If I fight a Brexit general election, I can say to people ‘look it’s no-deal or you get Jeremy Corbyn’.”

“You could end up with the bizarre situation where, let’s just suppose the Conservatives manage to win a majority with 35% to 40% of the vote, they will claim a mandate for no-deal when, if you add the votes for all the parties opposed to no-deal together, they will come to more than 50% of the vote. It is a completely undemocratic way of deciding it.”

There were acrimonious scenes in the House of Commons on Monday night as opposition MPs staged a protest against the prorogation that speaker John Bercow said represented “an act of executive fiat”; some sang songs and raised slogans of ‘shame, shame’.

As Bercow began proceedings to prorogue Parliament, a group of opposition MPs carried signs reading ‘Silenced’, while others were involved in an altercation near the Speaker’s chair, as they attempted to prevent him leaving his seat and attending to the prorogation ceremony in the House of Lords.