I’m near to giving up on this subject as Brexit is a vortex dragging all into an empty nothingness of collective angst and in some cases denial. I’m writing this on 29th March when we were meant to be leaving the EU. But instead there will be a vote in Parliament this afternoon (sigh) on half the Withdrawal Agreement (as in the Political Declaration is not included, so Bercow has allowed this through) which means that the MPs are voting on a so-called ‘blind Brexit’, which inevitably will be turned down. What is she doing? Read Gary Younge who sums this up better than I do, but indeed we are being governed by idiots in a system that’s not fit for purpose. In the last few months I have watched more of Parliament Live than ever before and am constantly asking myself what is this archaic pantomime that purports to be the Mother of Parliaments? There are times when MPs seem more performance artists than representatives of the people and leaders of our country. Something has to change.
Yet within this tumbledown ruin (no exaggeration, Westminster is a wreck) there are glimmers of intelligence and sense. Not once did I ever think I’d be agreeing with the red-face Tory toff Sir Oliver Letwin, the instigator of the Poll Tax (which you might remember went well – said with British sarcasm and irony here). But there I was on my first day back from holidaying in France (Wednesday 27) watching Parliament Live and saying, ‘yay, absolutely and so right’! Because this man was at the forefront of Parliament’s indicative votes, which if you look carefully at the meaning thereof doesn’t mean much as they are indicative and therefore not binding. Nevertheless, the government’s response (in the form of the Leader of the House Andrea lightweight Leadsom) was what Sir was moving the House towards was a very dangerous move indeed. Thing is, for those of you outside the UK, we have a very odd constitution – it is unwritten. The whole caboosh is predicated on precedent. And here he, and many others in the House, was/were saying very cogently, these were unprecedented times. Too right, they are.
To cut a long story short, the argument in the early afternoon (on Wednesday) was that the Executive is there at the pleasure of Parliament and not the other way around – in these exceptional circumstances. Overall, the debate on process and procedure was an interesting, intelligent and sometimes amusing with much historical precedent mentioned back to Tudor times – and that was approved. But inevitably the 8 amendments (from 15) that were debated and voted on, were rejected. No surprise there then.
Sadly that is the way Parliament is behaving. It knows what it doesn’t want, but it doesn’t know what it does want. Oh and yes, that last post when I said the next week was critical. Yes, of course it was, but the pattern was: Mrs May’s Withdrawal Agreement – no, defeated again with the 4th largest defeat in Parliament ever; no-deal – nope; and a delay? Well, OK, it was yes, to June 30 of this year. The significance of the short delay rather than a long delay, from Mrs May’s point of view, is that you won’t get a Referendum going in that time. And remember the UK can unilaterally revoke Article 50 but we cannot delay our departure without the agreement of the EU.
Then, last week it was yet another disastrous week for Mrs May. First of all, the Speaker ruled that she couldn’t bring back the Withdrawal Agreement for a 3rd vote because he’d found an ancient precedent that argued Parliament should not vote again and again on the same motion (which definitely that woman was going to do) and then at the EU Summit (March 21-22) Mrs May spoke for 90 minutes and was unable answer any question whatsoever as to whether she could get the negotiated Withdrawal Agreement through Parliament and what her Plan B was. The result was she was sent out of the room (I mean don’t you love this sovereignty thing) while the EU decided that no we couldn’t extend to June 30 as that would mean the UK getting entangled in the EU MEP elections. So, we were told, with some exasperation, that if the Withdrawal Agreement was not agreed by 29th (as in today) we leave on April 12th, but if something is agreed we can leave on the 22nd May. But that’s where I am getting exasperated myself as MPs are rushing around thinking up all sorts of ruses and different ways to leave, where as I understand it, the EU will only accept the Withdrawal Agreement with the Political Declaration attached.
So that’s where we are today. I shall end with bullet points under two headings: who to blame; and what’s going to happen.
Who to blame
- David Cameron
- 40-years of anti-European propaganda
- Mrs May’s personality – has to be said
- Mrs May holding the withdrawal negotiations behind closed doors so no-one knew what the agreement was going to contain
- Mrs May not reaching out to other parties – this is only happening now which is too late
- The low calibre of politicians in the Tory party – more about that in another post
What’s going to happen
- Today’s vote will be defeated – and note it isn’t going to be ‘meaningful’ anyway
- Other options will be debated and voted on next week
- A new leader of the Tory party – did I say Mrs M has said she will go when the Withdrawal Agreement is passed which it could – so on the cards, definitely
- A general election – very much could happen
- A referendum – don’t forget last Saturday when over a million marched to revoke and for a 2nd vote – sadly not likely
- Article 50 revoked – the recent petition to the UK Government to revoke and remain in the EU which currently has 5,959,680 signatures and as I looked at it people are still signing so it will be 6,000,000 very soon, and the biggest government has ever received, will be ignored. So no, Article 50 will not be revoked.
- We crash out with no-deal on April 12 – very likely
- We leave with a softer deal – yes, if that Withdrawal Agreement with the Irish border backstop is agreed, possible but not as likely
Finally, it’s kind of hyperbole to keep saying ‘wtf’ and ‘you couldn’t make this up’, but we are in unprecedented crisis, not helped one iota by this government which is totally out of its depth. I will write a longer article about this but leave you with a last thought that what really put the kibosh on our leaving was the anti-intellectual buffoonery of MPs like David Davis (and others so similar I won’t bore you with a list) coming up against the rigour of the European intellectual. It just didn’t come off, and so here we are.
Penny Kocher, 29th March 2019