Proroguing Parliament: What does it really mean for Brexit?

As predicted, Boris Johnson has decided to end the current parliamentary session (the longest in modern times), and trigger a new Queen’s Speech. Remainists are naturally going crazy, and talking of constitutional outrage.

But what does it actually mean for Brexit on 31 October? Is there time for fast-tracked, Bercow-enabled law that would either revoke Article 50, extend the deadline, or somehow prevent a “no deal”? What about passing a law that would stop prorogation itself? Is there even time left now in the parliamentary session?

We discuss all this and the finer details of the Fixed Term Parliament Act, and whether Boris has pulled a blinder.

Fixed Term Parliament Act 2011 –

House of Commons Library Briefing Paper on Prorogation –

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Change UK: The Splitters Have Split

This time, we revisit Change UK: The Independent Group. Actually, hang on: Change UK and The Independent Group. The splitters have split again. Warning: contains mild gloating.

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Lib Dems and Change UK: Anti-democratic Politics in the UK

In this latest episode, we discuss the Lib Dems and their recent successes in the EU elections and the latest polls. We reason why they’ve experienced a recent uplift before discussing Change UK: The Independent Group and why they’ve seen precisely the opposite.

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People’s something – where have I heard that before?

Albania. Bulgaria. Czechoslovakia. Hungary. Poland. Romania. Yugoslavia.

What do they have in common?

How about Ethiopia?

Add in China and North Korea.

All have been or currently are countries that started their name with “People’s”.

Most of them liked to add “Republic” after that and some added “Democratic”.  All gives a certain legitimacy doesn’t it.

If we say it, declare it, name it, then it must be so.

Of course most people recognise that it is farce.

It is the mark of the authoritarian regime.

Clothe yourself in talk of the people and indeed in the people having a vote and surely everyone will buy into that?

No, they don’t.

For starters, let’s observe how many of those countries I’ve listed still have “People’s” in their title. Very few.

But yet with absolutely no irony – with dead straight faces in fact – was the “People’s Vote” campaign launched.

True democrats (God isn’t it depressing when you have to put “true” or “real”, “genuine” or “proper” in front of a term because it’s been distorted to mean the opposite?) have easily recognised and can explain away the call for a second referendum.

Yet as we approach Brexit Day, with only weeks to go, the mask seems to have slipped in the People’s Vote campaign.

Sure we can easily label it the Loser’s Vote, the Politician’s Vote, an affront to democracy etc. But actually none of those things need saying any more.

Whereas for over 2 years the opponents of leaving the European Union have couched their language in terms of “having a final say”, “making sure” and other such nonsense – all the while of course repeating that they “respect the outcome of the referendum” – they now have lost that campaign message discipline.

They now just say it like it is. Dammit we need to stop Brexit.

We were all too stupid the first time. We need to Remain.

Guardian journalists were predictably first.

Jonathan Freedland (what an ironic surname) says now is the time to just campaign for remain. No ifs or buts.

Polly Toynbee has gone one better by claiming that now some old people have died, their votes must be discarded.

Heaven forbid that the oldest in society might have the most experience and better judgement than those just starting out.

Of course democrats or generally sensible people don’t campaign for the votes of younger adults to be halved or discounted. They believe in the basic principles of one person one vote.

I thought we could all agree on that. But then the EU referendum occurred and the true colours of the opposition were shown.

Legal challenges, mud thrown, campaigns for overturning democratic decisions.

But we shouldn’t be surprised should we?

It’s a “People’s” Vote after all.

Photo by Dirk Spijkers on Unsplash

We don’t need a general election, but MPs do need to resign

In his recent Spectator piece, Stephen Daisley outlines the political conundrum of Brexit well: the voters want Brexit, the executive wants Brexit, but Parliament does not want Brexit.

Now taking face value that the executive does actually want Brexit (Theresa May certainly doesn’t), Daisley explains that with the problem being the make up of the house of commons, that we need a general election to get a new batch of MPs.

But a general election is much like a second referendum, in that it lets MPs off the hook.

Even when given a clear decision on what to do, MPs (and Ministers, and Prime Ministers) can dither, prevaricate, delay and obfuscate until there comes such a time when they say “sorry, this is too difficult, back to you”.

Of course, what this means is that they didn’t like the decision that was handed to them, and they want a new one. Is this how we should let them behave?

MPs have a problem with Leaving. They wouldn’t be calling for a second referendum or a general election had the country voted majority Remain. They like Remaining.

But it’s also more than that. It’s about the fact that these MPs who call for a second referendum are putting their politics first, before democracy.

Yes, we have witnessed a clash of two kinds of democracy – Direct in the form of the referendum, and Representative in the form of our MPs – but after voting for the referendum bill itself, and again in triggering Article 50 of the Treaties, they are choosing to dump the decision made by the people in favour of their own personal views.

There is a dilemma here for MPs – there is no doubt about that. They are elected by their constituents to make decisions, to make law, to scrutinise government, to be in government.

But they are revealing, quite clearly, where they rank the decision made by the majority of the country compared to their own views as elected representatives.

Remain first, democracy second.

Of course, what they are hoping for, by dragging out this process for so long, is to make Parliament and Government look as dysfunctional as possible. They want to be able to say “See, this is too complicated, we need you to have your say again – look how we are mucking this up”.

This may have the effect they desire, with voters becoming ever more frustrated with their politicians, but they are missing the point. Brexit was a vote against the establishment, and the status quo. By making the establishment seem incompetent (revealing that it is?) that sense of disenfranchisement only strengthens.

Populist sentiment will only increase. If Leave isn’t delivered in any kind of meaningful way (like signing a Withdrawal Agreement that is more Remain than Remain) that sentiment will rise again.

Undo the referendum result entirely and stop Brexit and things could get nasty.

If MPs don’t want to implement the decision given to them by a national referendum, then they should resign as MPs.

They should make room for someone in their constituency who is willing to represent that decision and implement it.

There is another way of changing the make up of the House of Commons, and it’s not a general election, it’s a by election. In this case, potentially hundreds of by elections.

The problem, as identified by Daisley, is indeed the logjam of parliament. But a general election just means the same candidates trying to keep their jobs and to convince you of their views, not the other way around.

These MPs say more democracy is the answer, but if they had any sense of democracy whatsoever, they would be resigning in their droves, to make way for representatives that would indeed represent the voters, and who had the guts to implement what they have already decided.

Photo by John Cameron on Unsplash

Remain won, so why are we leaving?

To say this period of politics in the UK is interesting is an understatement.

Remain supporting politicians want us to stay in the EU. That much is clear.

They are also using every parliamentary trick in the book (including relying on their mate Mr Speaker) to effect their cause.

But I often think about what life would have been like in an alternative version of history. One where Leave didn’t win.

The day the result is announced, Prime Minister David Cameron resigns stating that even though he said he would stay on as leader if Remain won and enact the will of the people, he had changed his mind.

Sajid Javid becomes the leader of the Conservative Party and new UK Prime Minister, after Michael Gove declares his support for Theresa May early in the contest, only to stab her in the back later by splitting the vote in the next round.

Javid is a remain voting leaver, so remainers like him, but leavers do too for only supporting remain reluctantly.

In forming a cabinet he decides to unite the country by splitting his cabinet down the middle with 50/50 remain and leave supporters.

Leading remain supporter George Osborne is put in charge of a newly created department called “The Department For Reforming the European Union”.

Other prominent remainers are put in charge of Foreign Affairs and another new department for Global Trade.

Leading leave supporters are put in the treasury, home office, transport, health and education. (Michael Gove comes back as Chief Secretary to the Treasury after 6 months of loyal back benching).

In a surprise move, Javid delivers a letter personally to the EU Commission President triggering Article 50 and asking George Osborne to negotiate the deal that David Cameron always should have, for a new reformed relationship fit for the UK.

Javid makes a public statement on the steps of Number 10 explaining that the referendum result was so close that he couldn’t possibly ignore the 48% of leave voters and that therefore he was aiming for a specific half in/half out relationship with the EU so we could finally move on as a country.

Remain MPs are furious. Gina Miller starts legal proceedings.

The Liberal Democrats demand a second referendum even though they won the first one. They argue that a decision this big can’t be made by MPs or the government.

The Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn produce 18 different policies on how the relationship with the EU should look.

While George Osborne is negotiating the softest possible deal with Michel Barnier, PM Javid announces immediate no deal preparations (with a full 20 months left to go of the article 50 process) and Dominic Raab the Chancellor of the Exchequer announces sweeping cuts to corporation and personal tax rates. In his conference speech Raab compares the UK to Hong Kong.

Steve Baker the Global Trade Secretary finds and exploits a loophole in EU law that effectively nullifies the Common External Tariff and announces an immediate unilateral reduction of all trade tariffs to zero. Countries queue up to sell us their cheap goods and envoys are sent around the world promoting the UK service industry.

The EU are furious and immediately launch a judicial review by the ECJ on the UKs actions, although this will take at least a year to resolve, during which time food and clothing prices in the UK plummet.

Along with the Raab tax cuts, the poorest in society end up proportionately being helped the most by having more cash in their pockets.

David Davis, newly appointed Minister of Deregulation, slashes red tape by eliminating 73 different quangos over a period of 6 months.

The subsequent 6 months see the largest expansion of new businesses the UK has ever seen and employment among under 45s hits 92%.

George Osborne resigns from the government along with the Foreign Secretary Theresa May a week later. In her resigning speech in the commons May sites the clear referendum result and that remain should mean remain.

The new Reforming the EU Secretary Jeremy Hunt negotiates a Free Trade Agreement with the EU and a unique Associate Membership that recognises the UKs supreme sovereignty as well as a mutual recognition of standards and regulations.

This withdrawal agreement is put to parliament but as Jeremy Corbyn can see full freedom from the EU in his sights, he announces he won’t support the agreement. In public he gives a speech stating that as a remain voter he has a duty to protect the UKs status in the EU and that the withdrawal agreement is Leave in all but name.

There isn’t a majority for the withdrawal agreement and the bill fails in the house of commons because Jacob Rees Mogg, who refused a cabinet position in order to lead the ERG leads a last minute group of Conservative MPs against it.

The UK leaves the EU, the Euro drops in value and Trump announces a trade deal with the UK that is “great, just great, huge”.

The day after, Anna Soubry and Dominic Grieve join the Liberal Democrats.

Ok so that was both self indulgent and a lot of fun to write. But is it any crazier a course of events than has actually happened? I don’t think so. Yet here we are.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

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