The chances of a no-deal Brexit have increased further after members of parliament were blocked from tabling an amendment which could have allowed parliament to shut down parts of the government in order to prevent leaving the EU without a deal.
House of Commons speaker John Bercow refused on Monday to select an amendment, tabled by Labour MP Margaret Beckett and Conservative MP Dominic Grieve, which would have stopped the government from spending money across key departments including education, work and spending, and housing and local government.
The move, if approved, would effectively have brought the government to a standstill and possibly prompted a vote of no confidence in the administration, forcing a general election.
Bercow’s decision on Monday contributed to a growing sense of alarm among MPs who oppose a no-deal Brexit, and believe there are increasingly few mechanisms for parliament to prevent such an outcome.
Parliament in June also rejected a motion tabled by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn which sought to hand MPs the option of voting to prevent a no-deal exit.
Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson, the two candidates to replace Theresa May as prime minister in late July, have both pledged to leave the European Union with no deal if Brussels refuses to renegotiate the existing withdrawal agreement, which EU negotiators have insisted is not an option.
The UK is currently scheduled to leave the bloc on October 31 and Johnson, the leadership frontrunner, has pledged to leave on that date with or without a deal.
Hillary Benn, chair of the Commons Brexit committee, told BBC Newsnight on Monday he believes there is no chance that parliament will now be able to act until just days before the October deadline.
There are just 7 sitting days during the month of October when MPs believe they can act, after parliament returns from conference season and before a crunch European Council meeting starting on October 17.
“We will come to a moment when we are faced with a very, very stark choice,” Benn said.
“There are opposition days, could you use SO24 [a mechanism which would trigger an emergency debate among MPs], there may be other legislation we can attach an amendment to. I think the moment will come in October.”
Meanwhile, leadership rivals Johnson and Hunt will on Tuesday morning share a chartered flight to Belfast, Northern Ireland, where they will go head-to-head in yet another hustings with party members who will select one of them to become Conservative leader and prime minister.
Issues around the Irish backstop, a controversial part of the Brexit withdrawal agreement which saw it rejected by parliament three times, are expected to dominate proceedings.
Both candidates have hardened their positions on Brexit since entering the two-man shortlist to replace Theresa May, and both insist that they will be able to strike a new deal on the backstop with Brussels.
Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, has insisted that the withdrawal agreement will not be renegotiated and earlier attempts by Theresa May’s team of negotiators to place a time limit on the backstop were unsuccessful.