'Stand up and be counted': Conservative rebels prepare to block Boris Johnson from forcing through a no-deal Brexit

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  • The House of Commons will vote on Thursday on whether to neutralise Boris Johnson's power to force through a no-deal Brexit.
  • Members of Parliament will vote on a measure which aims to prevent the next prime minister, likely to be Johnson, from shutting down parliament in October to force a no-deal exit.
  • The vote is expected to be very close.
  • One rebel Conservative MP told Business Insider: "If he doesn't feel he can get away with it, he won't go for it... You can change the way he calculates his options by showing strength."

LONDON - Parliament could dramatically remove Boris Johnson's power to force a no-deal Brexit before he has even become prime minister in a crunch vote today.

The House of Commons will vote on a measure, called the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill, which aims to prevent the next prime minister from shutting down parliament in October to force a no-deal exit.

It passed by just one vote last week before it was approved and beefed up by the House of Lords on Wednesday. Now MPs must approve it for a final time in amended form, or it will be thrown out. The amendment added by the Lords would also give MPs a neutral motion in October which they could amend in a further attempt to prevent a no-deal Brexit.

A group of rebel Conservative MPs, led by former Attorney General Dominic Grieve, are acting now because they believe it could be one of their last opportunities.

READ MORE: The 5 big problems Britain's next prime minister will have to deal with on his first day

One former Conservative minister, who intends to support the amendment, told Business Insider that his colleagues have "got to stand up and be counted" as they are running out of time to prevent no-deal.

"There are not many opportunities in terms of time and mechanisms. If anything, it is too little too late," they told Business Insider.

They added that defeating the government on Thursday would be a "show of strength" that could deter Johnson from pursuing no-deal.

"If he doesn't feel he can get away with it, he won't go for it... You can change the way he calculates his options by showing strength."

They urged current Cabinet ministers like Philip Hammond and David Gauke to resign and back the amendment. "It's not like Julian Smith [May's Chief Whip] will take you aside and say you'll be demoted next week. They're going to be sacked next week anyway."

Johnson has repeatedly refused to rule out the prospect of suspending parliament, and is reportedly considering a plan to hold a Queen's Speech in November, which would shut down the Commons while the UK left the EU and prevent MPs from being able to act.

READ MORE: Boris Johnson is considering shutting down Parliament for 2 weeks to force a no-deal Brexit

Parliament goes into recess at the end of next week - when either Boris Johnson or his leadership rival Jeremy Hunt will have been announced as the next prime minister. It does not return until September, at which point the October 31 Brexit deadline will be fast approaching, especially given that parliament is currently scheduled to have another recess in mid-October.

It is unclear whether there is enough support from rebel Tory MPs to form a majority in today's vote.

One Conservative MP who resigned as a minister to vote for legislation designed to prevent no-deal Brexit earlier this year said they were unsure how they'd vote on Thursday, as they believed it might be too soon to rebel against the government, with a new prime minister yet to take office.

But BBC Newsnight reported that some ministers could today quit the government to back the Grieve measure today.

Johnson laid out his Brexit plan in more detail in an interview with ITV News on Wednesday. He said he wants a "standstill" arrangement with the EU which would maintain tariff-free trade, and then negotiations to solve the Irish border issue afterwards, as part of wider trade talks. The "standstill" would end significantly before the general election in 2022, Johnson said.

Our Brexit Insider Facebook group is the best place for up-to-date news and analysis about Britain's departure from the EU, direct from Business Insider's political reporters. Join here.

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