So – let the Brexit Wrecking Games begin! Shortly after midday today the HoC will debate and vote: on Brexit, the WA, the amendments, the extension to Article 50, the Backstop, on another and another ‘meaningful vote’ and on more parliamentary debates. The amendments – listed in the MSM, so please check them – are still in flux, some added, some removed, some given ‘a chance’, some not – it’s confusing!
One thing is however absolutely, definitely and crystal clear, to use an expression favoured by our politicians: which amendments will be heard, debated and voted on is solely in the hands of the Speaker, Mr Bercow, who has shown in recent weeks that wrecking Brexit is his main concern. If this means shredding Parliamentary traditions and unwritten laws of procedure, so be it as far as he’s concerned. I don’t think the warning “by senior Government figures that “history will judge him” if he snubs a backbench amendment on Tuesday that could save Theresa May’s Brexit deal.” (link, paywalled) will trouble him much.
His position as Speaker is somewhat controversial, as detailed in this article last year. Mr Bercow ought to have stepped down on June 22nd 2018 … but he’s still here, and our MPs have only got themselves to blame for having taken their eyes off that particular ball.
That is not the only accusation we can hurl at our representatives. I would go so far and say that the Brexiteer MPs have displayed a remarkable amount of political naivete, with misplaced trust in our institutions (PM, Cabinet, Whitehall) – something we plebs have been talking about since Ms May’s speeches at Lancaster House and in Florence in 2017, and most certainly and loudly since Chequers.
Remain MPs on the other hand have shown a remarkable attitude of group-think, of pigheadedness, a stupendous disregard for the will of the voters and a criminal inability to accept the legal No Deal.
An interesting feature today is that yet again political correspondents have homed in on Boris Johnson and his controversy with Ms May. Reading the reports it turns out that BoJo just wanted to know what Ms May was going to do about the backstop … well, don’t we all!
A nice blood-curdling report, with ‘knives in the back’ and all, can be found here at the DM – it’s not paywalled so you can read for yourselves. The gist is that Ms May wants her Party, Brexiteers included, to support the “Brady Amendment”. The inescapable Sir John Redwood explains why that is unlikely:
“The Brady amendment says MPs should vote for the Withdrawal Agreement if the backstop is amended or withdrawn. It is vague over how to fix the backstop and fails to mention the other many failings of the Withdrawal Agreement. I will not be supporting it. (my bold)
This paywalled report in the Times gives a taste of yesterday’s chaos inside the Tory Party. To think that these are our self-proclaimed ‘great and good’ governing our country makes one want to scream. I quote:
“Theresa May clashed with Boris Johnson over her Brexit plan yesterday as the prime minister alienated figures on both wings of her party. She had sought to rally Conservatives around an amendment to “replace” the Northern Ireland backstop, the most controversial part of her deal, on which MPs are due to vote today.” […] Mrs May wants to show Brussels how many of the 118 Tory MPs who opposed her Brexit plan when she first put it to a “meaningful vote” would be swayed if the backstop was “replaced”. Mr Johnson demanded to know what changes to the backstop the prime minister would ask of Brussels. One witness said: “Boris said, ‘Tell us what you’re going to do’. May replied, ‘I’m going to get behind Brady, pass it and then if you want to see what I’m going to do you need to support me tomorrow.” (my bold)
A bit like telling him and all to buy that pig in a poke, innit …
“Some Tory MPs were unimpressed. “It looks a very dangerous strategy which involves putting all her eggs in one basket,” a source said. “I don’t think it’s very clever. It was a very low-key performance, people were taken aback. She was asked twice what are the alternative options that she’s pursuing and she had no answer . . . today was a significant nail in her credibility.” (my bold)
Yes – but how will that influence their vote today?
Again, the EU has made it clear that there won’t be any negotiations – see here. And EU warnings in regard to an extension to Article 50 are still disregarded by the Brexit Wreckers who want just that:
“Senior EU officials and diplomats said that if a delay to Brexit goes beyond July, either as a continuous extension period or as a series of three-month postponements over a year, “Britain will have to hold European elections”. The EU will set conditions on any extension and seek guarantees that extra time will lead, in the short-term, to a deal being agreed by the Commons or, in the longer term, a softer Brexit, an election or a second referendum. […] If Brexit was to be postponed for longer, Britain would have to elect 73 MEPs to take their seats in the parliament to avoid a legal challenge that Brussels lawyers have warned would annul all EU decisions, potentially including Brexit. Under the EU’s treaty all member states must be represented and properly elected.” (paywalled source). (my bold)
Read carefully and let that sink in …
Meanwhile, William Hague pleads in the (paywalled) DT with the EU to please give Ms May a concession else the consequences would be horrendous:
“If you leave Theresa May to swing, she will probably fall. A new British prime minister is either going to be a more hardline Conservative or Jeremy Corbyn, and how are you going to like that? With the former you are going to lose the deal anyway, and with the latter the whole Western alliance will be in trouble. […] Furthermore, an EU that is inflexible now will provide an additional argument to leave it. […] A hardline posture in Dublin and Brussels will prove to be a gamble that failed. […] All in all, therefore, European friends, just think carefully before you tell Theresa May to go away without the concession she needs. One way or another, the consequences will come back to hit you, as well as us.”(my bold)
Isn’t this a somewhat weepy but rather delicious ‘Reverse Project Fear’? However – isn’t it coming to something when a senior Tory feels the need to ask the EU (!) for help (!!) to keep this PM in place …!!!
This then is the background for today’s historic debate in the HoC. I hope you’ve cleared the decks and will watch the whole thing. I certainly will!