Friday, 30 August 2019

Their protests ring hollow


I always feel guilty for abandoning the blog for a week but there has been no substantial change to report on. One of the main reasons the media is in full hyperventilation mode about prorogation is that it really has nothing else to wail about. All the other variables in circulation have been done to death.

As far as prorogation goes, for all the histrionics about a "coup" there's nothing to say beyond the immediately obvious truisms. It's a bit rich for remainers to be wailing about parliamentary sovereignty when the only reason they want it is to ensure parliament does not "take back control". 

Moreover I am still waiting for someone to tell me what parliament would usefully do in that time. The only thing they could do is attempt to do is overthrow the government so a government nobody elected or ever would elect can move in and cancel Brexit, thereby overturning a referendum. These being the same people bleating about democracy this week.

We are told that parliament must be allowed to debate Brexit but it's difficult to see what the point is when they still have no idea what they actually want and even if they were given what they wanted they still wouldn't vote for a withdrawal agreement - leading to another pointless extension only to be back where we are now for a third time. At some point you just have to bite the bullet. 

I would be a little more sympathetic to parliamentarians if I could point to even one MP with a decent command of the issues, but we've had three years of issue illiterate blether, electoral triangulation, procrastination and contradiction. To date Labour still doesn't have a coherent position on Brexit - save for negotiating a new deal which they would then vote against. 

For me to be convinced it was worth parliament reconvening at all in respect of Brexit I would need to see a unified position adopted by all those opposed to no deal - other than remaining. But we're not going to get that. This lot still can't tell their arse from their elbow. We saw this when MPs claimed the withdrawal agreement didn't contain enough on environmental protections and workers rights, failing to note that the withdrawal agreement is a distinct instrument separate to the future relationship. The ones who tell us we didn't know what we were voting for... didn't know what they were voting for.

I take the view that this level of ignorance is inexcusable even for ordinary citizens, but for MPs (with all their time and resources) this is just negligence. What value would any further Brexit debate add when we are still going round in circles, watching MPs cycle through the same non-answers we were all bored of hearing about three years ago.

If there is anything of interest from this week it is the remainer complaint that we have an unelected prime minister acting like a president and abusing executive powers. There has been much debate as to whether prorogation is constitutional, alerting us again to the fact that our constitution is unwritten. 

In that respect they are right, which is precisely what The Harrogate Agenda seeks to address by way of a directly elected executive, a written constitution and the separation of powers. If, moving forward from Brexit, remainers seek to address these deficiencies in our politics then they will find more than a few allies in the leave camp - but right now you don't get to argue for parliamentary supremacy if the first and only thing they want to do with it is to ensure we remain a subordinate of a supreme government in Brussels.

For something like forty years now the public have been frozen out of decision making in respect of our relationship with the EU. It is precisely that supreme arrogance on the part of parliamentarians that we are here to begin with. Once again they conspire to prevent our voice being heard. Being that this is the only say we are ever going to get on the matter, I'm not going to lose too much sleep if parliament doesn't get a chance to screw us over again. They've had three years to exercise their collective powers. They've had their chances. Instead we've seen nothing but parlour games.

It may well be that alast minute fudge is arranged and the withdrawal agreement is put before parliament one more time. A new parliamentary session allows for that, so we may yet avoid no deal but this is contingent on MPs realising that this is their only option. I hope so for all our sakes - and if they had any sense they would be begging Johnson for another vote on it. If we do leave the EU without a deal then the principal reason will be the wilful refusal of parliament to gets its act together.

There is nothing to be desired about a no deal Brexit since crashing out throws us into a state of limbo, passing all of the leverage to the EU in process. There is no WTO safety net. Much of the WTO system of rules isn't worth the paper it's printed on for all it can be enforced. Crashing out immediately puts us into damage control mode and forces us to rebuild all of our external relations from scratch. It threatens to destabilise the economy and throw government into chaos. But that is the gamble MPs took when they voted down all the alternatives.

The stakes, though, are far higher than that. If parliament is allowed derail Brexit then we are saying the votes of those who voted leave are worthless. At that point we turn down a dark path where ordinary people no longer see the point of engaging in politics through normal processes. If a twenty year long campaign can be thrown in the bin then democracy as we know it is over. And for all that, Brexit doesn't go away. It remains a feature on the political landscape until it is delivered. That creates a long lasting uncertainty.

For all the volumes now written about trade and customs and citizen's rights, it has now come down to brass tacks. Does my vote count or not? If it does then MPs were obliged to pass a withdrawal agreement. Since they've decided otherwise, the nuances no longer matter. The consequences are theirs to be reckoned with.   

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