The no-holds barred attempt to stop Brexit in its tracks by Remainer MPs who form a majority in the House of Commons is now taking the form (as I have previously warned) of a prospective coup by parliament against the people.
MPs threw out Theresa May’s Brexit deal with the EU by an uprecedentedly massive majority. A as a result, legislation passed by parliament last year means that the UK will leave the EU on March 29 with no deal.
Remainer MPs are determined to stop this by any means possible. They are aiming to enable MPs to seize control of the legislation timetable from the government in order to block no-deal.
Accordingly, Labour Remainer Yvette Cooper has tabled a motion to delay the date of the UK’s departure by extending the period laid down under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, which currently expires on March 29.
This is said to to have more force than other MPs’ motions, which are merely advisory, because it paves the way for legislation to be originated by MPs. It is thought to command the support of enough Conservatives along with Labour to render Mrs May powerless to stop Brexit from being pushed into the long grass.
The first thing to say about this is that the date of departure is not only enshrined in UK law but in a European treaty. It cannot be altered unless all 28 EU nations agree.
The only other way of altering the date of departure is by the UK revoking its intention to leave under Article 50. Last December (in an amazing coincidence of timing) the European Court of Justice ruled that the UK could do this but only if this decision was made “in an unequivocal and unconditional manner” — that is, not as a negotiating tactic to secure improved terms in a withdrawal agreement — and so long as it was taken “in accordance with [the UK’s] constitutional requirements”.
In a deeply disingenuous Guardian article, Yvette Cooper wrote:
“The bill doesn’t stop Brexit or decide what kind of Brexit we should have or what kind of deal would work. Nor does it affect the result of the referendum. It doesn’t revoke article 50, it just avoids us crashing out with no deal in place at the end of March. The government and parliament still need to resolve the best way forward, but the bill means if needed there can be a bit more time”.
Cooper’s stated objective is to stop the UK leaving on March 29. Her move is intended to give more time to… to do what, exactly? From what she has written, this is as clear as mud. More time to… well, er, “debate”, and then…well, just come up with something, anything that’s an alternative to no-deal. That is hardly an “unequivocal and unconditional” decision. It is at best a move to secure alternative terms of withdrawal – and at worst, to stop Brexit altogether.
As for being “in accordance with [the UK’s] constitutional requirements”, the very opposite would seem to be the case.
In a paper written for Policy Exchange Sir Stephen Laws QC, a former First Parliamentary Counsel and thus an expert on Commons procedure, argues forcefully that there is no constitutionally proper means for MPs to change the law governing what happens next over Brexit against the wishes of the government. (His paper was specifically a response to an amendment proposed by the arch-Remainer Dominic Grieve QC, but its main point would seem to apply to other similarly motivated Brexit wrecking motions including the one planned by Cooper).
Laws argues that the draft amendment to overturn the rule that gives precedence in parliament to government business is based on a misreading of constitutional procedure.
The key point is that the government’s approval is needed for any major expenditure. If the UK doesn’t leave the EU on March 29, this will entail continued expenditure arising from the UK’s financial obligations as a member state.
“A Bill that contains provisions that give rise to expenditure cannot pass unless those provisions have been authorised by a resolution of the House, and the motion for such a resolution can only be moved if it has been recommended by the Crown. That means that the Government has to have approved it.
“…The electoral system itself, so far as it is a means of holding the Government accountable to the public, depends crucially on the ability of the public to hold the Government responsible for how it has used the principal lever of government – the use of public money. Removing that responsibility would undermine the whole UK constitutional system.”
If the Commons Speaker were to allow this outrage, writes Laws, the Queen herself might be required to intervene to uphold the constitution. For all precedents are absolutely clear that any motion to remove that government responsibility would itself require the recommendation of the Crown.
“It is a sacred duty of all UK politicians not to involve the Monarch in politics. They have a constitutional responsibility to resolve difficulties between themselves in accordance with the rules, and so as not to call on the ultimate referee. However, might not a Government in that situation think that this was precisely the last resort for which the Royal Assent process is retained?
“How should the Monarch react to such advice? The answer is not straightforward, and the prospect of it needing to be considered in a real-life political crisis is unthinkably awful…Nobody involved in all this could possibly think that the creation of the sort of nightmare constitutional crisis I have described would be worthwhile. So, if there is a plan that would run even the slightest risk of precipitating it, it should be abandoned.”
Alas, fanatical Remainer MPs are only too likely to precipitate such a crisis. That’s why the leading back-bench Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg is now urging that, if parliament intends to subvert and undermine the constitution, then parliament itself must be stopped.
“If the House of Commons undermines our basic constitutional conventions, then the executive is entitled to use other vestigial constitutional means to stop it, by which I basically mean prorogation”.
Prorogation means bringing about the end of the parliamentary session — which would mean that all those laws which had not made their way through parliament would automatically fall.
These are desperate scenarios – but then, the current situation is desperate and unprecedented. Quite simply, and despite all their protestations to the contrary, Remainer MPs (along with some purported Brexiteers whose backbone is even weaker than their intellect) are setting parliament against the democratically expressed will of the people.
The British people voted in 2016 for one thing only: to exit the EU. Since every possible alternative to no-deal being proposed by Remainer MPs is aimed at keeping the UK tied to the EU at least to some extent, their real purpose is to reverse that referendum result.
Last year, MPs passed an act of parliament enabling the government to trigger Article 50. They themselves thus committed the UK to leave the EU on March 29 this year regardless of whether or not a deal on the terms of departure had been struck.
The manoeuvres of Grieve, Cooper and all the other Remainer MPs who will stop at nothing to prevent the UK from leaving with no deal are therefore all intended to stop Brexit itself without admitting it.
Moreover, in producing such division and chaos they are actively weakening the UK against the EU, which has absolutely zero incentive to be reasonable while it is led to believe Brexit may never actually happen.
Every MP who votes for these wrecking amendments will therefore be complicit in cynically abusing parliamentary procedure, undermining the British constitution and spitting in the eye of the public. They are also traitors to the British national interest.
They will have forfeited thereby the moral right to be members of parliament at all – and judging from the escalating fury being voiced by the public at this trashing of democracy, they will be booted out of office at the first opportunity.
Where all this leaves the historic cradle of political liberty doesn’t bear thinking about.