The Speaker
Monday, 20 May 2024 – 22:55

The proroguing of Parliament: A self-inflicted Remain problem

NOTE: This is an opinion article – any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Speaker or any members of its team.

British politics is currently the gift that keeps on giving.

On Wednesday morning news emerged that Prime Minister Boris Johnson was going to request to suspend Parliament from the middle of next month.

Then in the afternoon, The Queen approved his request, meaning Parliament will be prorogued from the 9th of September till the 14th of October, which will be the date a new Queens Speech will take place, detailing the legislative agenda of Mr Johnson’s administration.

The action will see Parliament lose a number of sitting days prior to the UK’s scheduled departure date on the 31st of October.

The move has been met with unrelenting criticism. John Bercow, the House of Commons Speaker, issued a vitriolic response, affirming the move represented a ‘constitutional outrage’, adding that shutting down parliament ‘would be an offence against the democratic processes.’

Leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn also condemned the move, branding it as an ‘outrage and threat to our democracy’. In a statement, he proclaimed ‘I am appalled at the recklessness of Johnson’s government, which talks about sovereignty and yet is seeking to suspend parliament to avoid scrutiny of its plans for a reckless No Deal Brexit.’

He then called for a meeting with The Queen along with other Privy Council members.

Jo Swinson, leader of the Liberal Democrats, professed the move was an ‘outrageous power grab’ by Boris Johnson, and also requested a meeting with The Queen.

In addition, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon asserted the day’s events represented a ‘dark day’ for democracy.

The prime minister’s actions have triggered extensive outrage because it minimises scope for legislation or debate to prevent a feared destructive no deal, and instead considerably increases the chances of hurtling into the abyss.

Indeed, the value of the pound has fallen again following news that Johnson is suspending parliament. It is now down 0.62% against the Euro and 0.74% against the dollar, meaning £1 is worth €1.10 and $1.22.

The countdown to no-deal appears to well underway.

However, although much of the indignation is being directed at Johnson and the Brexit camp, those who oppose no-deal need to lay the blame closer to home.

Despite all the ardent calls to avert a no-deal Brexit from moderate Conservatives, Lib Dems, Labour, the Greens, SNP and Change UK, a concerted approach and strategy was non-existent.

In spite of former Prime Minister Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement being rejected a historic 3 times, illustrating there was no appetite for her deal, and rather a yearning for alternatives, in two rounds of indicative votes in spring, when alternative Brexit options were presented, MP’s failed to unite behind a single option.

On 27th March 2019, eight motions were voted on, including but not limited to a Common Market 2.0 approach, Labour’s alternative Brexit plan, a confirmatory public vote and a customs union, and all eight motions failed to generate a majority.

The following week, another round of indicative votes took place. This time there were only four options, which again included a Common Market 2.0 approach and a customs union proposal. But again, no understanding and no consensus.

Former Tory MP, Nick Boles, who proposed the Common Market motion, even resigned when his motion was rejected, citing his parties’ failure to compromise as the chief reason.

That is the fundamental factor stifling those who seek to prevent no-deal – no desire to compromise.

This was accentuated when Corbyn proposed leading a government of national unity to thwart no-deal, but was shunned, ironically, by those most vocal about the ruinous ramifications of a no-deal departure.

Jo Swinson, who heads a party which has only grown in relevance again because of their sturdy anti no-deal stance, and who has claimed on several occasions she would do ‘anything to stop no deal’, rejected the idea of Corbyn leading a unity government and instead proposed more experienced MP’s such Ken Clarke or Harriet Harman undertake the role.

Ostensibly, Swinson is determined to hamper no-deal, but not if it means placing political differences aside.

The same can be said of remainer Tory MP’s such as Dominic Grieve, David Gauke and Caroline Spelman, who all distanced themselves from working with Corbyn. Mr Grieve even stipulated he ‘would not facilitate’ a government led by Corbyn.

Yet when reality hit, and parliament was suspended, Grieve enunciated the move was ‘tantamount to a coup’. The former attorney general even declared his intention to bring down the government in a no-confidence motion.

But it may be too little too late. Not just for Grieve, but for all those attempting to frustrate no-deal. There has been a lack of unity and party politics has taken precedence instead of the national interest since the 2016 referendum. In 3 years little or no progress has been made, so it seems unlikely substantial advancements will be made when MP’s return on the 14th of October, considering the UK is scheduled to exit on the 31st.

Johnson has displayed contempt for democracy and acted in a tyrannical and Trumpian manner and plunged Britain into uncharted territory. But if the proroguing of Parliament leads to Britain crashing out of the European Union without an agreement, the anti no-deal camp’s unity, or lack thereof, can be seen as a primary reason.



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