Katy Balls

MPs have their holidays cancelled – but will they have anything to do?

MPs have their holidays cancelled – but will they have anything to do?
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After much speculation, Andrea Leadsom has confirmed that the February recess will be cancelled. This means that – in theory – MPs will be deprived of any ski holidays scheduled for the week of 18 February. It's still up in the air what Commons business – if any – will take place that week given that Parliament is in a state of deadlock. However, the view was that regardless of Brexit progress, it would be an incredibly bad look for MPs to trot off on holiday at the time of an approaching constitutional crisis.

So, will they have anything to do? The problem is the government does have a lot of Brexit legislation it needs to pass in order for the UK to leave the EU at the end of March – but the bulk of this legislation cannot be passed because the government does not have a Brexit deal. It follows that at the moment, the word in government is that it will be a one-line whip for the week. That means MPs wouldn't actually have to be in the Commons for votes – and some might choose to stay in their constituencies. However, it's very much a moving picture. Should May manage to get a deal, it could be all hands on deck and a three-line whip be put in place. As one minister put it, 'it also won't be a good look if MPs are in Parliament unable to vote on anything.'

The decision comes after Jeremy Hunt used an interview on Today this morning to say that Article 50 could have to be extended. The Foreign Secretary's point was that there is a lot of 'critical legislation' that needs to be passed before 29 March if a deal is approved:

'It is true that if we ended up approving a deal in the days before the 29 March, then we might need some extra time to pass critical legislation. But if we are able to make progress sooner then that might not be necessary.'

It follows that how much business there is for MPs to do the week their holiday has been cancelled depends a lot on whether they can actually unite around a Brexit plan. Without that, the paralysis looks set to continue – and some may choose to head to the slopes anyway.