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Joe Watts, political editor of The Independent, published an article today titled "Ministers tell Theresa May to force through Brexit by calling election for days after EU withdrawal".

She reports that, in the event the Prime Minister loses both the 'meaningful vote' on her Brexit deal (that she has called) and a subsequent vote of confidence in the Government (that would almost certainly then be called by the Opposition), ministers are urging her to exercise her discretion under Section 2(7) of the Fixed Term Parliament Act 2011 to delay the arising general election until after the UK's withdrawal from the EU has taken effect on 29 March (with "no deal").

It certainly appears that this would be legal—but is it politically likely that HM Government, having lost the confidence of the House over an issue of such magnitude, would delay a general election (the ostensible purpose of which would be to resolve the impasse) until after a "no deal" exit that Parliament clearly does not support has been imposed?

Bear in mind that Theresa May has said that she will not lead the Conservative Party into the next election—so whilst the Government delays an election for "no deal" to play out, the Conservative Party will be searching for a new leader to fight that election: a leader who may of course themselves not support the election being so delayed (not least because their hands would then be thoroughly tied, and they would be campaigning to inherit one almighty mess).

Is it not possible/likely that The Queen would intervene to dismiss the Prime Minister and appoint another, as caretaker for the interim until that election be held (such caretaker likely seeking terms with the EU to postpone the UK's withdrawal until after said election, such that any alternative path revealed by the vote might then be explored)?

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    Minor correction. Theresa May has said she would not lead her party to the next fixed term GE in 2022. She very carefully did not rule out leading her party if there was an earlier election. – Alex Jan 9 at 13:40
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    @Alex: Good catch—I had indeed overlooked that. However, it would seem extraordinary to me for her to lead her party into a forced general election having failed to get her deal through and then her government having suffered a vote of no confidence! But these are strange times. – eggyal Jan 9 at 16:52
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    A third of her parliamentary party have no confidence in her. She delayed a vote because she’d definitely lose it and lost the first finance bill vote in 40 years. It would indeed be extraordinary if she stayed on. She’ll stay on. – Alex Jan 9 at 22:06
  • Should get bumped to first page for relevance to current issues. – Jontia Sep 4 at 20:50
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This is constitutional murky water, but we know the following

The FTPA says:

If the House of Commons resolves "That this House has no confidence in Her Majesty's Government", an early general election is held, unless the House of Commons subsequently resolves "That this House has confidence in Her Majesty's Government". This second resolution must be made within fourteen days of the first. This provision recognises that in a hung parliament it might be possible for a new government to be formed, commanding a majority.

So it is a two-step process with at least 14 Days for things to be sorted out and at m,. It does not automatically lead to a GE.

In the first case, there is a fair chance the motion would fail, Tory MPs hate the EU but they fear a Corbyn government more.

There is also a chance that the PM could quit and a caretaker Tory PM could be bought in who would command the confidence of the house.

There is finally an outside chance that backbenchers on both sides could get together and form some sort of unity government that would have confidence to relieve the impasse. It has been interesting in recent days that a cross party anti no-deal coalition has started to assert itself.

If all these things fail then there would be a GE. As you say the PM could delay the election until after Brexit day, I don't think constitutionally anything could stop her. However I think that if she hinted at this at all it would drive MPs to support a government that did command the majority of the house.

Also it would be an insanely risky move to do such a thing, one of the things that helps sustain the Brexit fantasy is that it hasn't happened yet. Thus Brexiteers can do interviews and assert anything they want with confidence. If there is chaos in the days and weeks following a No Deal it could have very unpredictable consequences.

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    I think that if she hinted at this at all it would drive MPs to support a government that did command the majority of the house”—and so one might hope! Of course, it would still require the PM to recommend to The Queen that the leader of such movement be invited to form a government... – eggyal Jan 9 at 15:34
  • I don't think obstructing the clear will of the House would last long. The situation is developing at an accelerating rate; from the "meaningful vote" motion last year, to events today with the programme motion. The government has lost control over the Parliamentary agenda, which is good news as it's a necessary condition for stopping No Deal Brexit. – pjc50 Jan 9 at 16:07
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The Queen cannot so intervene without provoking a constitutional crisis. Her powers are used strictly in accordance with the advice of her ministers, and her discretion (as opposed to that of the Prime Minister) in these matters was substantially removed by the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act 2011.

She can, however, advise the Prime Minister against such a course of action. I don't know if she might do so: she keeps her views quiet.

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We are in strange times at the moment, and this government has survived several previous events which would normally have triggered collapse and resignations.

but is it politically likely that HM Government, having lost the confidence of the House over an issue of such magnitude, would delay a general election (the ostensible purpose of which would be to resolve the impasse) until after a "no deal" exit that Parliament clearly does not support has been imposed?

Is it likely that people who have widely ignored warnings on how risky their policy is would make a terrible decision that leaves the country governmentless at exactly the moment executive and legislative action is needed to deal with Brexit outcomes?

Yes.

Is the intent to hold onto the grenade after removing the pin for as long as possible before handing it over to a potential Labour government?

Probably. Nobody in the Tory party wants to be the person to tell the voters that all the positive promises of Brexit can't be delivered.

Is it not possible/likely that The Queen would intervene to dismiss the Prime Minister and appoint another, as caretaker for the interim until that election be held (such caretaker likely seeking terms with the EU to postpone the UK's withdrawal until after said election, such that any alternative path revealed by the vote might then be explored)?

That would be a whole constitutional crisis on its own, I think it's extremely unlikely.

(Personally I think it's more likely that some kind of emergency will be declared at the point of Brexit resulting in the election being delayed, under the Civil Contingencies Act. A telephoto shot of a document headed "Operation Yellowhammer" supports this theory, but there are no details.)

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