MPs on both sides in the Brexit battle are gearing for next week’s anticipated showdown as Remainers try to block a no-deal Brexit.
Their justification in doing so is a master-class in constitutional illiteracy and self-contradiction. To counter what they consider to be the anti-democratic outrage of by-passing Parliament, they are planning to…bypass Parliament. As the Mail reports:
“Remainer MPs from five different parties have promised to join forces with Jeremy Corbyn to seize control of the House of Commons and pass a law to stop Boris Johnson pursuing a No Deal Brexit”.
Earlier this week, they turned up to sign a declaration that they would oppose any attempt by the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, to suspend Parliament or do anything else to push through a no-deal Brexit. They pledged to “do whatever is necessary” to stop it, including forming an alternative House of Commons.
They call this the “people’s parliament”, just like Remainers call a second referendum the “people’s vote”. But the people’s vote took place in the 2016 referendum; and the people’s parliament is Parliament. That’s because the people vote for MPs to represent them in the House of Commons. Clearly, though, Remainers don’t think these people are the people at all. The people, it seems, are only people who think like them.
These plotters say they are uniting to stop Boris Johnson destroying democracy because he hasn’t ruled out proroguing Parliament to push through a no-deal Brexit. But the only reason he might consider proroguing Parliament (which is not without precedent – in 1948 it was prorogued following the Lords’ opposition to the Parliament Bill) would be to defend Britain’s constitutional democracy against the attempt by Remainer MPs to hijack it for their own ends.
For of course destroying democracy is precisely what they themselves are proposing to do by thwarting the ability of the government to govern and hijacking that power for themselves. That is the real constitutional outrage. As the historian Professor Robert Tombs observed in The Times, the belief that Parliament can exercise sovereignty and govern in opposition both to the Crown and to the electorate has little or no legal, political or historical legitimacy.
“It is important to note that even Dicey, in the Victorian heyday of Parliament, considered its power to be that of making laws, ‘neither more nor less’. It did not have the power to govern. The Crown — the government, the executive — has its own legitimate functions, and direct responsibility to the nation, as in every democratic system. The role of Parliament is to hold government to account, not to be the government. To go beyond this is a flagrant usurpation of power”.
It’s more accurate to call the Remainer plotters the anti-people parliament. They have resolved to undermine the Parliament elected by the people because they claim a no-deal Brexit will amount to the government riding roughshod over MPs. But most of these MP, as Remainers, are determined not only to ride roughshod over the people’s referendum decision but also to betray their own election promise to honour the result.
The shadow attorney-general, Shami Chakrabarti, has said the Prime Minster would be committing the “gravest abuse of power and attack on UK constitutional principle in living memory” if he shut down Parliament to force through a no-deal Brexit. But the gravest abuse of power and constitutional principle in living memory is the Remainer MPs’ no-holds-barred attempt – including up-ending Parliamentary procure and trying to hijack the legitimate powers of government – to reverse the decision by the people which Parliament itself asked them to make.
Even more astoundingly, they are trying to reverse their own decision. The LibDem leader Jo Swinson declares that the proposed rebellion is “to enforce the will of Parliament.” But Parliament voted to trigger Article 50 and set a legally enforceable date for the UK to leave the EU.
That meant Parliament itself voted into law a deadline to leave the EU regardless of a deal being struck. Remainer MPs were either too stupid or lazy to think about the possibility of leaving with no deal, or didn’t care about it very much but subsequently changed their minds.
They say prorogation would be unconstitutional because of the extreme gravity of a policy decision – to leave the EU with no withdrawal deal – over which MPs would thus have no say. But these MPs already legislated for this to happen. Far from being railroaded by Boris Johnson, they are in effect outraged over their own decision being put into effect.
Their proposed revolt is being called an attempted coup. That is to give it a dignity it doesn’t deserve. It is beyond ridiculous.