Richard North, 21/01/2019  

"MPs are in a dark room, looking for a black cat, that isn’t there", writes Matthew d'Ancona in a piece that starts well but tails off badly as he concludes by asking, "if there is any way of breaking this impasse that doesn't involve a fresh referendum, will somebody please tell me what it is?"

There is, of course, a way out. That is for parliament to take the decision it insisted it was its to make – the "meaningful" decision as to whether to accept the withdrawal agreement. And if it decides not to – which it has done so far – then it needs to "own" that decision and accept that the only rational alternative is a no-deal Brexit, with all that that entails.

Instead, like the bunch of wimps they are, they want it both ways. They don't want to take responsibility for making the decision which will take us out of the EU on extremely unfavourable terms, yet they can't bring themselves to accept that the consequences of not so doing will be extremely dangerous for the nation, expensive and politically disruptive.

So, unable to make a firm decision either way, they hide behind the procedural step of last week's vote – one which registers its opposition to Mrs May's plan, but stops short of the "killer step" that would remove the prime minister from office, and thereby bed in their decision and make it stick.

Instead, by allowing Mrs May to remain in place, they leave her to do what she must do, to present the same plan over and over again – like parents re-presenting a recalcitrant child with its uneaten food at successive mealtimes – until the MPs either cave in, or we run out of time and take the default option. Then we end up with the "accidental" no-deal exit, an option that no one decided to adopt, for which no one will take the blame.

In the meantime, we have a group of dissimulating morons under the flag of the ERG which, against all the odds, continues to insist that the no-deal scenario is an acceptable – and even beneficial – option which we can embrace without fear, lying through their teeth at every opportunity, with a bizarre perversion of the truth which is as close to arguing that black is white as makes no difference.

If the mood takes you otherwise, you can have the Dominic Grieve tendency, those MPs who are trying to intervene directly in the Article 50 process, variously wanting to extend the Article 50 period or to revoke the Article 50 notification. They are so overwhelmed with admiration of their own brilliance, that they have forgotten everything they ever knew about constitutional law and are playing games at our expense.

Grieve's particular plan is so convoluted as to invite ridicule before it even gets off the ground. But, at its heart, it apparently seeks to deny that, except under very rare circumstances that came to a head with the invocation of Article 50, the negotiation of treaties and the matters pertaining thereto, are the exercise of Crown prerogative.

Short of a Supreme Court Ruling, there is nothing Parliament can do to force the Executive to exercise its powers defined by Crown prerogative. The very definition of Crown prerogative is that the power exercised is beyond the writ of Parliament. The prime minister does not need its consent.

Grieve may be deliberately pushing at the margins with a view to triggering a constitutional crisis. But the only sensible response from Mrs May is to tell him what to do with his presumption. Parliament is encroaching on the sovereignty of the Crown. Does he think this is a democracy? Does he even think that his institution represents a democracy? He needs to be told.

Then, as far as instructing Mrs May to seek an extension to the Article 50 period goes, there is the added proviso that any extension requires unanimous approval of the EU-27. Thus Grieve is seeking to use Parliament to do the equivalent of demanding that King Canute turns back the tide. And we know how well that worked.

But the central premise is that negotiating treaties is a matter for the Crown. Parliament gets its look-in when it comes to ratification. In this case, we have the irony in that Parliament has failed to ratify the withdrawal agreement so a group of self-appointed MPs are now seeking to interfere with affairs which rightly belong to the Crown.

As part of this, or alongside, we have that bundle of deluded ones who want to extend the negotiating period to that they can introduce their bastardised version of the "Norway option" – which has since become the better-described Efta/EEA option, to those people who have the faintest idea of what they are talking about.

Clearly, this doesn't apply to the cretins' appreciation society, who have rung through the changes of "Norway then Canada", through to "Norway plus" and finally "Common Market 02". Their "cunning plans" have in common that they are based on the false surmise that joining or staying with the EEA is a quick fix that can easily be accomplished.

In their parallel universe, the EEA Agreement can be shoehorned into place, alongside a completely unnecessary customs union, to provide us with a magic token that will see off the dreaded "backstop" and pave the way for our journey to the sunlit uplands.

For those for whom mere dishonesty is not enough, there are always the second chancers to go for, those who, in the style of the Communists' peoples' democratic republics, believe they can engineer their own "peoples' vote", classically replacing the electorate to give a "better" answer than the one they've already got.

This thinly disguised "continuity remain", fronted by the very people who lost the 2016 referendum campaign, adding their own incompetence to the list of things which deprived them of their victory, believe they can exploit the failure of parliament to justify overturning the referendum result, with yet another referendum.

This group, of course, also wants a delay in the Article 50 process, to give time to hold a referendum which – the government says – could take a year to organise.

Neglecting the Labour Party, which is firmly entrenched in its own private parallel universe, all that is left from the motley crew which inhabits the decaying gothic monstrosity by the Thames is Mrs May's payroll vote. But even this might find it hard to support her latest wheeze – a bilateral treaty with the Irish which cuts out the "backstop" from the withdrawal agreement, thereby detoxifying it so all the little lambkin MPs can rush to the next division and vote in favour.

Never mind that the idea of a bilateral deal with Ireland harps back to the very first days when May thought she could by-pass the Commission and talk directly with Member States. She was told then, in no uncertain terms, that this wasn't going to happen. So here she is, attempting to repeat exactly that which she has been told on multiple occasions that the EU is not prepared to do. The woman is the very embodiment of Proverbs 26:11.

Nevertheless, this seems to have captured Jacob Rees-Mogg in its fantasy allure. He is now suggesting (or so we are told) that he will back the deal if the backstop is removed. However, more than 50 other Tory MPs have signed public pledges on the "Stand Up 4 Brexit" website promising to reject Mrs May's deal on other grounds.

And that has another Guardian hack spring to his word processor in defence of his salary. This is Andrew Rawnsley who, in the hope of gathering some intelligence about how the captain of the Brexit ghost ship intends to navigate her way out of this hell, turned to a "senior and clever Tory who is a close shipmate of the prime minister".

The brave hack having thus asked him: "How will it end?", got the sagacious reply: "I haven't got a fucking clue". But actually we have got a "fucking clue". We're headed for the cop-out option, the no-deal, because we have a black hole at the heart of government. We're so far past the event horizon that Parliament has given up any attempts to drag it out of the gravity well, filling in time by playing games around the edges.

This is styled as parliament "taking over control" of the Brexit process, but that can only be true if it takes in the concept of watching Brexit being pulled into the oblivion of a no-deal. All that is left for us, the mere plebs to do, is watch in awe as the process of government disintegrates. And, for that, we get ringside seats.

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