There is news, my friends, and my title quote from the first canto of Byron’s Don Juan could apply to both parties involved:
Category: Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson is about to go into a tunnel, apparently. I think that means something like: the EU has agreed to properly sit down and have a talk about that deal they said was the final possible deal.
What will Boris come out of the tunnel with?
- A deal that gets us properly out of the EU but without any unpleasant trade restrictions?
- A deal that is Brexit in name only?
- No deal.
There is a faint possibility that Boris is so good at politics he will get a deal that is just Brexit-y enough and just un-Brexit-y enough to stay in power and get back to business as usual politics with no realignment.
When leaders represent the will of the people – and the laws they are breaking are illegitimate or undemocratic – violating them is nearly always justified in retrospect. As it would be in this case. The Benn Act became law earlier this month because of the connivance of the unconstitutionally partial Speaker, John Bercow. When he allowed the Opposition to pass legislation in Government time against the will of the PM and his Cabinet, 300 years of constitutional precedent was overturned.
The Benn Act was a very English form of coup d’etat, orchestrated by an anti-Brexit faction in Parliament to subvert the clearly expressed will of the people. It is, therefore, necessary for Boris to break it to restore the proper constitutional relationship between Government, Parliament and people.
Brian Micklethwait argues that no (overt) pact is needed between the Brexit Party and the Conservatives in order to get a Parliament of leavers. The Brexit Party can make the pact unilaterally:
all Brexit voters need to know who to vote for in their particular constituency, come the day, to ensure Brexit. So, the Brexit Party just needs to tell them. If the Brexit Party campaigns for Conservative Brexiters who’ll win, but for its own candidates when they are more likely to win, the Brexit Party will get its deal.
Meanwhile Boris might do well to avoid a pact:
in the event of such public collaboration, there was and is a crucial slice of Conservative but only Leave-ish voters in the affluent south who would have been put off voting Leave, and would who would now be put off voting Conservative and would switch to the LibDems
It might just work.
I read everywhere that Boris Johnson’s government is flailing and failing. They have been soundly defeated in the Commons. It looks like Boris will be forced to ask the EU for another extension, and according to the Times it has been pre-approved:
Rebel Tory MPs and opposition leaders received private assurances from European leaders that a request by parliament for a three-month Brexit extension would be granted in one last attempt to break the deadlock.
The Times understands that senior figures behind the bill to force an extension on Boris Johnson cleared their plan with EU capitals before it was published this week. They received reassurances that the European Council, which is made up of EU leaders, would not stand in the way of one final extension if it was approved by parliament.
“If Parliament is unable to decide on Brexit it would be better to have a snap General Election”
Average of 3 polls this weekend (Survation, Opinium, YouGov)
Lib Dem 18%
Some interesting comments on the effectiveness of the prorogation at Zerohedge. That article quotes a pay-walled article from a web site called Eurointelligence, a web site about politics and economics in the Eurozone.
It argues that there is no time now for any legislation to pass. And so:
There is still one option left for Remainers to pursue, but it is very risky. They could hold a vote of no confidence when they come back next week. If they win, the fixed-term parliaments act sets out a definitive procedure. The House of Commons has two weeks to secure a majority in support of another prime minister – a technical government as the Italians would call it. But this is unlikely as the opposition is hopelessly divided on this point. If that effort fails, the Commons would be suspended for new elections. But, crucially, it is the government that sets the date for them. Number Ten said yesterday that the date for elections would be November 1-5, that is after a no-deal Brexit. In other words, a no-confidence motion could actually trigger a no-deal Brexit, as the Commons would have deprived themselves of the opportunity to ratify a withdrawal agreement.
Finally, Parliament gets treated with the contempt it richly deserves.
And now more than ever, we will need the Brexit Party to keep a political knife to Boris Johnson’s throat, or the most likely last minute result will be a sell-out ‘deal’ that delivers the utterly appalling Withdrawal Agreement (“Whether you’re a Brexiteer or Remainer, this is a deal that a nation signs only after having been defeated at war. This is not a deal fit for purpose for any sovereign country.”), probably minus the distraction of the backstop.
Oh, the growlings and the howlings now that Boris Johnson – for which read Dominic Cummings – has asked the Queen to suspend Parliament.
Bercow: “I have had no contact from the Government, but if the reports that it is seeking to prorogue Parliament are confirmed, this move represents a constitutional outrage.”
Corbyn: “…an outrage and a threat to our democracy”.
Sturgeon: “This simply cannot be allowed to happen.”
Tory chairman James Cleverly blandly says that it is merely that the Government seeks “to hold a Queen’s Speech, just as all new Governments do”, but is not fooling anyone and does not seem greatly troubled by that.
It is an audacious move, and it is indeed constitutionally unprecedented. But that’s the thing about breaking precedent; once broken it stays broken. Oliver Letwin, Dominic Grieve, Yvette Cooper, Hilary Benn and Nick Boles were all happy to dispense with Parliamentary precedent in March. Bercow smirked while he betrayed his office to let them do it. Many warned them at the time that what they had done their opponents could also do. They went ahead anyway. And now they find themselves in the position described in a famous quote from A Man for all Seasons, that of having cut a great road through the law to get at the devil only to find that the devil has turned round on them and there is nowhere to hide, the laws all being flat.
Boris has written a letter to MPs announcing his intention to prorogue Parliament, have a Queen’s speech, and start a new parliamentary session.
This is really winding up all the right people, which means it is probably a good idea.
Guido points out that it only removes 4 sitting days from Parliament, however. Is this enough to put a stop to attempts to legislate to impede Brexit? Will remainers be forced to hold a vote of no confidence? Is it a constitutional outrage or just a normal Parliamentary procedure?
For now I suspect that it will work. Either we will leave without a deal, or the EU will decide that since we really are leaving on October the 31st it can become more flexible.
Update: Boris is on TV arguing that this is just to enable him to get on with the domestic legislative agenda. He says there is plenty of time left to debate Brexit. He comes across as calm and reasonable. His opponents sound screechy and panicked. He’s playing a good game.
I like this part of Boris’s letter to Donald Tusk:
This government will not put in place infrastructure, checks or controls at the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. We would be happy to accept a legally binding commitment to this effect and hope that the EU would do likewise.
The jurisdiction with fewer regulations has nothing to lose from such an arrangement, of course. The EU bureaucrats, however, want to be in control, and a source of cheap goods from a free-er jurisdiction must make them uncomfortable (as well as being highly profitable for Northern Ireland). Leaving the EU to build their own border infrastructure is the default position for the UK anyway: the UK cannot lose. This is a test of the EU’s commitment to free trade, as opposed to “free trade” as controlled by them.
The letter is only about the backstop. Theresa May’s agreement minus the backstop still has many problems. It remains to be seen whether Boris and Parliament will settle for it.