Before I get into the pantomime of the last couple of days, I’d just like to ask this, does it matter to the world that we’re leaving the EU? Because it does seem that the UK is a tad obsessed with our self-inflicted dilemma. I’m looking at someone else’s blog here (see below) and I’d agree with it and say economically, no, it won’t matter. We’ll be a little poorer with a very damaged GDPR, and lower economic growth for some years, but will this affect other countries? Not a lot! But as far as nationhood and international relations, I’d say yes, it does matter. The EU was always meant to be far more than an economic union. Is it because I’m old (yes, I am saying that) that I think the EU had, and still has, a huge impact on relations between European countries (did International Relations as my degree, btw). And yes, how many of you can remember bomb sites? Actual holes in streets made by German bombs? Well I can. They were a common sight through my childhood and I haven’t forgotten them. When you holiday in Italy (write in any European country instead apart from Switzerland) do you think of the furious fighting that went on between neighbouring countries. It matters that former enemies sit round table discussing economics, and even, dare I say it, closer union with each other. To not be part of a greater whole? I regret that.
But setting important stuff aside, the last couple of days have been interesting. Parliament will vote on Mrs May’s Withdrawal Agreement on Tuesday 15th January. It is probably going to be defeated, although I say probably as Mrs May is playing a dangerous game of chicken hoping that MPs in Parliament will blink and vote for her agreement rather than having a no-deal.
Ah wait, there will probably not be a no-deal as the government got defeated at the beginning of the week by a carefully crafted amendment to a finance bill, which restricts the government’s tax powers unless a no-deal Brexit is taken off the table. So that was the government’s first defeat of the week, and then yesterday (Wednesday 9th) there was, oh joy, another quite important (I’m being ironic) as in, very important government defeat. Rumour had it that Mrs May, yes, she will most likely be defeated on 15th but, thereafter, she was apparently going to bring the agreement back week after week after week. Now what happened was a typical bear-pit pantomime of ‘oh no, you mustn’t, ‘oh, no you shouldn’t‘, and ‘oh, what have you done!’ versus, ‘oh, yes, I will and you can’t stop me’. Because, horror of horrors, the Speaker acted in the interest of parliament rather than the executive (government) and allowed parliament to vote on an amendment (without a debate) which said Mrs May was to bring a Plan B within 3-days of next week’s defeat.
Oh calamity. It was passed. I mean, there is no Plan B, but in the meantime, much disgust was coming from some MPs, but absolutely not all. To watch the House of Commons live was an education in how our betters do disgust. Kind of wordy and blustery. But the performance of Mr Bercow, our Speaker, dressed as a Harry Potter character and enjoying every single minute of holding the government to account, ‘I am not’, he shouted, ‘here to act as a cheer leader for the government.’ What a hero!
Interesting, is it not that the Brexiteer MPs wanted their sovereignty back, but when our parliament uses its sovereignty and acts in the interests of parliament rather than the government, and goes against their wishes – ooh, er, no, missus.
You could not make this up.
Penny Kocher, 10th January 2019
For more on the first paragraph read: Tony Barber, Should the world care about Brexit? Financial Times newsletter. January 8th 2019