SNAFU – a military expression dating back to WWII – describes best what Brexit looks like this morning. While the HoC was empty, ‘things’ did happen there yesterday. We learned more about Ms May’s desperate attempts to get her WA over the line. But if the Electoral Commission sees fit to admonish the PM then you know things have become … fouled up.
First of all, Sir Bill Cash made this intervention:
“While speaking in the House of Commons Mr Cash said: “On April 11 a statutory instrument extending the period of time for us to leave the European Union was tabled to October 31. It was rushed through this House of Commons in the afternoon following that council meeting which was attended by the Prime Minister. 80 members of Parliament have signed my prayer for the annulment of that order and statutory instrument which we regard as ultra vires and void. Will my right honourable friend ensure that very soon there is a debate on that statutory instrument and naturally on the issue at stake. We believe it should be on the floor of the House.” (link)
‘Prayer’ in parliamentary terms has a special meaning: “A prayer motion can be used by members of either House to object to a statutory instrument (SI)” (link)
Such motion must be tabled by the Leader of the HoC, Andrea Leadsom, and Peter Bone MP made a suitable intervention when she seemed to be unwilling to do so (link):
“Would the Leader of the House make that point clear and would she also confirm in relation to the right-honourable member for Stone not only will we debate on it, we will vote on it?”
The key words are ‘vote on it’. The right honourable member for Stone is Sir Bill Cash. This is the reply by Ms Leadsom:
“My honourable friend is very well aware that it’s the Government’s policy to leave the European Union in an orderly way. That means leaving with a deal. He will also be aware that the decision of this House not to support that deal and, indeed, to require an extension to Article 50 is the reason why such an extension has been agreed.” The furious Brexiteer shook his head as Ms Leadsom continued: “I have made clear to my honourable friend, the member for Stone, that we will be able grant a debate on the statutory instrument that he has prayed against.” (link)
In other words: ‘you can talk all you like, there won’t be a vote’ … which is actually not so astonishing because Ms May ‘has plans’, or rather, some of her ministers have made plans for her:
“Ministers today piled pressure on Theresa May to bring back her Brexit deal within days as it was claimed she could tear out the Irish backstop to swing the vote. The Prime Minister could decide to remove the controversial border clause in the hope MPs vote for it and send a new message to Brussels that it must be axed or changed if Britain is to leave the EU.” (link)
It’s beyond belief that ministers, just like those MPs who got their amendment about an extension to Article 50 through the HoC before Easter, simply don’t seem to grasp the fact that the EU has told them repeatedly that the WA is non-negotiable. Their proposal is hogwash, but we can discern why they are doing it:
“Downing Street had hoped to bring forward the Withdrawal Agreement Bill next week in the hope of getting a version of Mrs May’s deal through Parliament in time to cancel the European Parliament elections on May 23.” (link)
This, and this alone, is what the latest Brexit drama is about: to cancel the EP elections because the ‘strategists’ both in 10 Downing Street and Tory HQ can see full well that they will be hugely damaging to the establishment parties.
So their new plan is nothing new – it is the ‘Brady amendment’ which was one of those multiple amendments voted on in the weeks before the Easter Break:
“The Prime Minister has been asked to throw her support behind the changes, which could see the backstop limited by 12 months or banished completely. […] Sir Brady said: “My amendment on January 29 demonstrates that a majority can be found for the Withdrawal Agreement, as long as the backstop cannot be a permanent state.(link)
While Sir Bill Cash’s important ‘prayer’ won’t be voted on, this desperate attempt by May and her Remain cronies will be served up for a fourth time:
“But it [Ed: Sir Bill Cash’s ‘prayer’] was missing from yesterday’s list of legislation to be considered by Parliament next week. And Tory whips have privately told ministers the idea has been put on hold for at least a week while the PM tries to secure enough backing for it to pass.” (link).
Now look at the reasoning behind this latest May attempt to shove her WA down the HoC’s and all our throats:
“Government insiders say the Prime Minister (has) given up hope of cancelling UK participation in the European Parliament poll by securing Commons approval for her withdrawal deal within the next three weeks. Instead, she is preparing for a determined push to force crucial withdrawal legislation through Parliament in time for the country to quit the EU by the end of June.” (link)
While that looks innocent enough at first glance, the actual aim is not:
“Her new timetable will mean British voters are set to elect a new troop of MEPs next month […] who will have lost their jobs by the time the new European Parliament assembles on July 2. One source said: “The focus now is on hitting the June 30 deadline so the MEPs don’t take up their seats.” (link)
Savour this: run the unwanted election, waste huge amounts of money on it, give the stupid voters another chance to express their outrage – and then scupper it. The Times comments:
“Mrs May has said that she does not want the election on May 23 to take place at all, suggesting that she could cancel it up to the day before if MPs approve her withdrawal bill. Any MEPs elected will not take up their seats should Britain leave the EU before the new parliament sits in July.” (paywalled link)
It’s about the EP elections, stupid – and about how to thwart the Leave votes again. In an unprecedented intervention, the chairman of the Electoral Commission has written an article in The Times where, first describing the preparations undertaken by the Electoral Commission to run the EP elections smoothly, he issues this warning:
“This is an unprecedented level of uncertainty in a mature democracy. […] Even if the elections go ahead as planned, no one can tell whether those elected will take their seats or, if so, for how long. There are bound to be questions about the impact on voters, now and in future, when a significant electoral process is in such doubt, especially when its value is being openly questioned by the government.” (paywalled link)
Let this criticism – by an establishment figure! – sink in … Democracy and the democratic process obviously doesn’t matter to Ms May, her Tory cronies and her handlers in Whitehell and in Brussels.
Democracy matters to us though. That’s why we voted Leave – and that’s why she, Brussels and the Remainers are so desperate to wreck Brexit by all means, especially foul ones.
The destruction of democracy before our eyes matters to us even more. That’s why TBP has gained such momentum. It can no longer be about party politics, about standing with one’s political tribe.
It has to be about coming together in an alliance, to save our democracy and our democratic institutions which Ms May and her tribe are trampling into the dust.