Yesterday afternoon’s headlines screamed it from the rooftops: “Brexit vote delayed”: Ms May scrapped today’s ‘meaningful vote’ (one assumes that any other vote in the HoC is meaningless?), postponing it until January 21st while going to Brussels (going? Crawling on her knees, more like!) to ask her overlords for more of the same: “[…] she would go back to Brussels to renegotiate and win a “legally-binding assurance” that the backstop will not apply indefinitely.” (Daily Telegraph).
Well, good luck with that! Mr ‘Backstop’ Varadkar said immediately that there was nothing to negotiate, and the EU attack dog Verhofstadt underlined that in this delightful tweet: “Just keep in mind that we will never let the Irish down.” (see here). He was the one who said that the EU had negotiated this WA in order to protect us Brits from our folly. What a kind man!
While we feel betrayed, do have a heart for May’s cabinet ministers who were cluttering up the TV studios and radio waves, insisting that the vote tomorrow would go ahead, “100%”, as her latest DexEU minister said (who he? A Mr Barclay … ??? No, me neither …), while May was writing her Delay speech. That the hacks even asked this question shows that inside No 10 this decision must’ve been talked about behind double-closed and triple-locked doors. Some leaks there then, shurely …?
It is of course pure coincidence that she took this decision on the same morning when the ECJ ruled that the UK could unilaterally scrap the Article 50 application – provided this is done before the deadline of March 29th.
Thanks to Ms May’s retreat from the meaningful vote, and thanks to the spectacle of her ministers declaring that the vote would go ahead while she was already revoking it, how much faith can we put in what Mr ‘who he?’ Barclay officially stated:
“The Government’s firm and long-held policy is that we will not revoke the Article 50 notice. This position has not changed. To do this, or indeed to hold a second referendum, would be to undermine the result of the 2016 referendum and the professed will of this House to give effect to that result.” (source).
I’m sure that the brilliant lawyers who’ve dissected May’s WA and the backstop will have a go at this in the coming days. A first excellent analysis (here) sadly is behind a paywall.
So here we are: Ms May has listened to us (yee-hah!) and will be hard as ice when negotiating with those softies in Brussels. After all, she can always ask for more of the same humble pie! Rejoice! All our Remainer MPs can rejoice as well: no ‘meaningful vote’ on the 11th of December means they don’t have to cast a vote for which their constituents would lambast them over the Christmas recess (no Christmas cards from constituents? The horror!).
And thus, in one fell swoop Delay May has also pulled the carpet from under all the ‘meaningful’ rallies and demos. Everybody, and I mean everybody, has egg on their faces, herself included.
Is there a way out?
I can see only one: the Tory Party finally finds their collective round dangly objects and gets rid of her, installing a Brexit PM who gets the mandate to go to Brussels in her stead and tells that lot ‘thanks, but no thanks – we’re out.’
The inevitable John Redwood closes this morning’s diary entry on yesterday’s ‘May Day’ with the observation that this has “removed confidence in Mrs May from some more MPs who used to support her.” Might the 48 letters now arrive in the 1922 Committee inbox? Is there … hope? Insiders hint however that this is still not likely to happen. Paul Goodman wrote in ConHome: “In our view, she had no choice – having gradually boxed herself in. We read the decision as a desperate bid to fend off 48 letters. Now let’s see if it works.” Ah well, I won’t hold my breath then.
I believe that the Whitehall civil serpents, from Oily Robbins (who was spied in Brussels on Sunday with his EU sidekick, btw) down to the last paper pusher, are too committed to Remain because it gives their life a purpose: shuffling EU papers around their departments, no decisions to be made, and lording it over us peasants. What’s not to like! After all, they negotiated the surrender document, they got us it into the mess – how likely is it they will now get us out of it under Delay May’s reign?
So here we are: hours wasted, brilliant legal opinions written for the wastepaper basket, articles, rallies: futile, all futile. As for the MPs in the House of Commons: how sad. All their grandstanding over the last week: futile. Just hot air. And Tory MPs are still at it, with more clever proposals as to how best to tweak this thing. Labour doesn’t have to do anything at all. For them, this is the best vehicle to gain power. The fate of the Nation is irrelevant.
Delay May says her deal is the only deal but she has listened to us and will do her very best to gain us a crumb of comfort from Brussels which will be akin to the foam served as food in ‘fine dining’ restaurants. And then we can start all over again, as if it were some occupational therapy for us non-Mandarins.
The excellent Allison Pearson closes her article this morning thus: “Last week, the Government was found in contempt of Parliament for the first time in history. On Monday, it earned the contempt of the whole nation.”
I would add that not only the Government but Parliament as a whole has earned the wholehearted contempt of the Nation. Will there be consequences for that lot? Hope springs eternal, so I hope we’re not watching the death of Brexit by a thousand cuts, engineered by Whitehall and Brussels.