Boris and Brexit


Boris and Brexit

By Duncan Whitmore

At the time of writing, a bill to delay Britain’s exit from the European Union beyond the October 31st deadline is making its way through the House of Lords, following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s loss of all of his votes thus far in the Commons. Johnson has also lost his Commons majority after one MP defected to the Liberal Democrats on Tuesday while a further twenty-one were denied the Tory whip for voting against the government that same evening. It is, therefore, probable that the bill will be passed and, without the ability to call a general election, somebody will be carted off to the EU to grovel for a Brexit extension until January 31st.

Nevertheless, in contrast to the Maybot (whose repeated defeats ground her down into the appearance of an exhumed corpse), Johnson remains remarkably upbeat. If his chief strategist, Dominic Cummings, is as brilliant as he is reputed to be, then this may be no surprise. After all, every major obstacle to achieving Brexit, “do or die”, on October 31st was known in advance, namely:

  • An overwhelmingly pro-Remain Parliament which could be expected to use the excuse of an alleged no deal “catastrophe” to tie the Prime Minister’s negotiating hands;
  • The existence of a significant number of rebellious Tory MPs amongst a Parliamentary majority of just one;
  • A Speaker barely able to feign impartiality through a willingness to bend constitutional propriety and parliamentary procedure.

Johnson may, of course, have lost a few more of his MPs than he would have liked; he may be lamenting the departure of his brother from both the government and the party. But, in spite of any despair that he and ardent Brexiteers may be feeling right now, there are no overwhelming surprises amongst what has unfolded in the last few days. Given this, therefore, is it the case that Johnson is, in the words of Owen Jones, “just a bit, well, s*it”? Or is it more likely that all of this has this been a tremendous exercise in manoeuvring predictable events to ensure some kind of outcome that would finally get us out of the EU as the Prime Minister has promised? With, admittedly, a bit of hopeful thinking, let’s explore the case for the latter.

If there is an overarching strategy, it is likely to be that the voting public must be left in no doubt whatsoever that Johnson and the Conservative Party are now the Brexit party, committed absolutely and unshakably to achieving our departure from the EU, in one form or another, on October 31st – and, moreover, that any delay or failure in this regard is absolutely and undeniably the responsibility of Parliament and the other parties, not of the Tory government. No more of the fuzzy vision we had of the proceedings under Mrs May – this is Johnson and “the people” versus an elitist, out of touch and unrepresentative Parliament. What support is there for this view?

Prorogation

The purpose and effect of prorogation has been less about preventing Parliament from stopping “no deal” and more about forcing the anti-no deal MPs to play all of their cards in a very short space of time. Whether or not prorogation is challenged in the courts is now, largely, irrelevant – MPs intent on stopping no deal have had to assume that their sitting days will be truncated. Thus, in just a single week, these MPs have gone from screeching about Johnson’s supposedly Nazi-like “coup” for calling the suspension, to they themselves hijacking the Parliamentary timetable in order to pass their bill. But the Prime Minister then called their bluff by offering the very general election (such a fascist!) which the opposition has been crowing for for at least a year – an offer they promptly denied as they now realise they will probably lose. (Labour’s excuse of wanting to pass the delay bill prior to any election is smoke and mirrors – a victorious government could either pass or repeal it after the election, at least if the latter is held before October 31st). Johnson has, therefore, manoeuvred the anti-no dealers into choosing paths which paint them as the undemocratic despots while positioning himself on the side of the people.

Lost Majority

Thanks to the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, the bizarre situation of the government losing its majority while being powerless to call an election means that, even if the government successfully negotiated a new withdrawal agreement, its ability to get this (as well as new laws required for no deal preparation) past the Commons would be practically impossible. This reveals the extent to which the anti-no dealers are willing to go to force their agenda: crippling the government of the country before keeping it on mere life support so as to plough through a delay to Brexit while at the same time avoiding an election which would toss the anti-no dealers out.

Purging the Conservative Party

The unhesitating removal of the Tory whip from Tuesday night’s rebels and the threat of their de-selection has cleansed the Conservatives of unreconciled Remainers – a continuation of the same process that wrung them out of the cabinet back in July. The fact that the purge paid no heed whatsoever to rank, reputation, seniority, or (in the case of Sir Nicholas Soames) family pedigree makes the message all the more clear – the Tories are now the Brexit party. Nigel Farage’s eponymous party would campaign with the Conservatives if Johnson dropped all vestiges of May’s deal, an agreement which seems likely given the odds it has of achieving victory, and of a possible (according to The Times) opposing pact between Labour and the SNP.

Brexit Extension

Johnson has repeatedly, but carefully stated that he personally will not request an extension to Brexit beyond October 31st. Therefore, ruling out the incongruous possibility that he would simply ignore the bill should it become law, this may suggest that Johnson will find some (legal) way – including his own resignation – of forcing Corbyn (or another anti-no dealer) into being the official to go grovelling to Brussels. As The Times suggested on Thursday morning, Johnson’s resignation could allow enough time to put Corbyn into office to request the delay before then tabling a motion of no confidence in his (Corbyn’s) government that would trigger an election – an election during which the Tories could then charge Corbyn et al. with having scuppered Brexit. Ordinarily, this would seem like a ridiculously convoluted state of affairs, but we seem to be living in a time when the ridiculous becomes reality.

EU Agreement

The EU itself may now be unwilling to grant a long extension (or any at all) unless it can see a clear way forward in negotiating an alternative withdrawal agreement. And yet, such a way forward – already mired by the refusal of either side to budge on the so-called “Irish backstop” – has just been made even more unlikely by Johnson’s loss of his Commons majority. It is improbable that the EU will refuse any extension altogether, but according to this morning’s Times, European governments – themselves fed up with the continued uncertainty – have moved towards “no deal” preparations as a default unless something is done to resolve the deadlock in British politics. It is, therefore, possible that the EU will only be willing to work with a British government that commands at least some kind of ability to pass any resulting agreement through Parliament. Thus, it may turn out that the EU will demand that an election is held prior to the October deadline as a condition for an extension, an election which, of course, Johnson could win.

Campaigning

Johnson has begun campaigning under the assumption that a general election is now inevitable. Indeed, the fact that the Conservatives are making no attempt to filibuster or otherwise disrupt the passage of the Brexit delay bill through Parliament (while pushing for another motion, on Monday, to call an election) suggests that they have been preparing for this outcome. (A further suggestion that they may persuade the Queen to withhold Royal Assent from the delay bill also seems unlikely – it is important for the Prime Minister to give the impression that he is not the one who has stepped outside of the bounds of constitutional propriety). Indeed, the Chancellor’s “end-of-Austerity” spending plan, announced before the Commons defeats on Wednesday, suggests that the Tories were already positioning themselves onto an election footing. Moreover, tens of thousands of people have registered to vote this past week, and so Johnson could easily whip up public support for an election. Thus, Johnson and the Conservatives will hit the ground running while everyone else is still wading through disagreement among themselves about the best course of action. Indeed, it may end up being better for the Tories if the election falls after a Brexit delay has been secured for the reason that all of the opposing parties are united only around the principle of stopping “no deal”. If the delay – which Johnson will claim, with credibility, was not of his doing – has been achieved by the time of the election then it may be harder for these parties to agree a joint election strategy that could defeat a Conservative/Brexit Party onslaught.

Conclusion

Needless to say the power of the pro-Remain establishment should probably not be underestimated – as The Spectator has pointed out, if the kind of analysis laid out above is correct then it is still a big gamble. Nevertheless there is, at least, some cause for optimism. As James Delingpole, responding to the current shenanigans, has said, the sovereignty of Parliament – a beloved, but much misunderstood phrase trumpeted by the Twittering classes – is and always has been ultimately subordinate to the consent of the governed, and it is the latter that has won in the end:

In the country at large, in other words, outside the Westminster Bubble, people are looking with a mix of horror and embarrassment at the antics of those of their alleged parliamentary representatives who are blocking Brexit and thinking: “Well they certainly aren’t representing me!”

So, courage mes braves! We’re on the right side of history. And the longer the other side prance around making pillocks of themselves and crowing about how well they’re doing, the more the decent, sensible majority are going to be irked by their preening prattishness – and will boot them off the political stage for all eternity.

 

 

 

 

 

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15 comments

  • “If there is an overarching strategy, it is likely to be that the voting public must be left in no doubt whatsoever that Johnson and the Conservative Party are now the Brexit party, committed absolutely and unshakably to achieving our departure from the EU, in one form or another, on October 31st”
    Our departure from the EU IN ONE FORM OR ANOTHER….. Therein lies the rub. There is only one form of Brexit, and it is not the one Boris aspires to. He plans to ‘tweak’ the current Treaty just enough to squeeze it through Parliament, then we are back where we were with Mrs May’s version of ‘Brexit’; tied indefinitely into the Customs Union & Single Market; subject to the ECJ, and effectively still in the EU but this time with no representation and, more importantly, with no escape route. Ever.

    • That may not amount to much. Unlike Mrs May, Johnson has invested all of his political capital in leaving, not on any particular agreement. He may have viewed the reheating of Mrs May’s deal minus the backstop as the most likely (albeit unsuccessful) way of dissuading the existing Parliament from forcing a delay; but if he has to fight a general election he may well have to promise the negotiation of a “harder” Brexit from scratch, particularly if the Brexit Party remains firm on that being a condition for any co-operation. If, on the other hand, he has to continue to work with the current crop of clowns in the Commons, the pace of events is forcing everyone to show their true colours. The present unity of the opposing parties and MPs behind the “anti-no deal” stance is not a permanent policy – eventually, they must be prepared to either accept an agreement or go the way of the Liberal Democrats and come clean about wanting to reverse the Referendum result. Particularly if Parliament begins rejecting any agreement brought back from Brussels (which is not unlikely given the combination of their anti-Boris fervour, their probable reluctance to hand him a political victory and their unwillingness to leave the EU in the first place), then two things could happen. Remainers will collapse into claiming that no acceptable deal is possible, while Leavers will see that “getting a deal” is itself synonymous with obfuscation and delay so that “no deal” becomes the only viable option of leaving. Thus, if such a course was to plays itself out, it would not be surprising if the final battle ends up being Remain vs. No Deal.

  • Blow Job has blown it.

  • I’ve just been watching a clip from Lefty News…I mean….Channel Four News and they had an interview with the Irish Finance Minister who stated this:

    [quote]”The only people who negotiate with the British government on behalf of Ireland are the European Commission.”[unquote]

    Imagine saying that and feeling no shame. I would hide under a rock.

  • Things are changing by the hour, so it is impossible to predict, but I believe Boris already plans to reach some sort of agreement with the EU on the 19th Oct. The only achievable ‘deal’ has to be based on the existing W.A. My fear is that Parliament may be so utterly desperate to see an end to all this that they will support it, and Brussels is gambling on this outcome. If that happens, we are finished as a country. At least we now know who the traitors are. And if my fears are correct, the queen will be included in their number if she gives her asent to it.

    • I’m inclined to the same view about the significance of any such deal. Of course, we should always pause to reflect that some 16 million voted for Remain – including millions of native Britons – and while I do not want compromise, it would have been perfectly legitimate for a British Prime Minister to argue that compromise is necessary and we must stay in the EEA or join EFTA on some basis or come to a similar arrangement. But the proposed deal is quite another matter. It is treason to keep us tied into the EU as opposed to a customs and trading relationship.

      As usual, Duncan Whitmore has written an excellent article, but what comes across to me is how our current crop of politicians tend to pay too much attention to the politics of situations. They over-complicate things by thinking tactically rather than strategically and waste valuable time and initiative weighing up micro-worries about what this or that person or group of people might think, instead of being leaders.

      This country needs a leader. I could accept a leader who told us: ‘This is what we’re going to do. We’re joining EFTA and we’re remaining tied to the Single Market. We’ve submitted our application and terms and they have 90 days to respond and accept pursuant to international law on the continuation of treaty provisions. The ECA is repealed at that point, under legislation already passed. It’s not a complete Brexit, but it’s a Brexit on paper and it’s a start. Anybody who doesn’t like it knows where the door is.”

      I wouldn’t like that, but at least it’s leadership.

      • We are either in or out. There can be no compromise between diametrically opposed positions. If the referendum numbers had been reversed, do you think Mrs May would have been pursuing a policy of compromise by staying in but leaving by just a little bit? Or if your MP were to be elected by a mere handful of votes, should he contemplate job-sharing with his opponents?
        The glaring mistake Cameron made was allowing a simple majority. If he had demanded a 2/3 vote for change, that would have been perfectly reasonable. But he didn’t. Them’s the rules, and Leave won.

        • Your complaint needs to be addressed to the people who are demanding a compromise. I am not. If it was up to me, half of the people you see on TV would be in Belmarsh Prison, most MPs – including Boris Johnson – would be put in front of firing squads, the BBC would have been shut down, dissolved and abolished, and Gina Miller would be enjoying a very long holiday in an exotic destination very far away.

          • I rather like Gina Miller. I don’t think she has done anything improper. She has fought her case through the proper channels, and I would not wish to deny her that right. My contempt is reserved for the traitors who claim to be serving their country in the Conservative Party but who are actively colluding with, if not working directly for, the European Union to keep us imprisoned therein.

            • [quote]”She has fought her case through the proper channels…”[unquote]

              Which does not mean she should have brought the case. It’s beside the point anyway. She is not a native Briton. If she were, then her punishment would be a firing squad or the hangman. As it is, she is an alien who has no business telling me how my own country is governed. She should be deported forthwith, back to a privileged life in the Third World where she can lord it over people who look a bit more like her and who share her understanding of ‘democracy’.

              • Leaving aside the fact that this is an ad hominem attack, are you arguing, as you seem to be, that anybody who brings an action to court whose aims you disagree with should be ‘punished’ by firing squad?
                I prefer to focus on the legal arguments. She is not, as you claim, ‘telling you how your country should be governed’. She brought a case before the courts, and the courts will rule on it according to the law, as is their proper function.

                • I am saying that anybody who betrays their own people (in this case, the white British) to the extent that we now see here is a traitor and should face penal consequences. I regard high treason as a capital offence. The punishment is hanging, or where a reprieve is granted, a lengthy prison sentence. In the case of MPs, I draft firing squads – following judicial proceedings.

                  This would not apply to Gina Miller as she is an alien and her various activities (not just bringing a court case) cannot therefore be regarded as treason on her part.

                  In other words, she is an enemy alien, not a traitor. Strictly, she cannot be punished as such, she can only be subject to the administrative measure of deportation – which I want to see happen, and not just in her case. She would be the first of millions.

                  And it is not an ad hominen attack. Race and ethnicity are valid factors for consideration of people’s motives. Only in the dream fantasy unicorn rainbow Disneyland that some people on here live in are they not.

                  • I cannot agree with your assertion that she is betraying the British people. She is simply putting her case before the courts. She has no more authority than you or I. You may or may not accuse the courts of betrayal, since they are in a position of authority over us. But she is simply a private citizen with strong views on the subject, just as you and I have. Are you saying that anybody who disagrees wth you is a traitor?
                    When it comes to some of our politicians (and we now know who they are) I would un-hesitatingly accuse them of treasonous behaviour. I suppose it is possible that some of them are acting out of principle, but taken as a lump it seems to me that they are acting out of loyalty to the EU, probably because they are being rewarded for so doing.
                    And much as it pains me to say it, I would accept the same accusation being levelled at the Queen. She has broken her Coronation Oath on numerous occasions, and if she signs the Withdrawal Bill into law (assuming it comes back yet again in one form or another) then she will have signed the death warrant of her own country. Again, I would be prepared to believe that she is acting out of high principle, in the belief that membership of the EU is a safeguard against seeing her relatives across Europe tearing themselves to pieces once again. But she is the custodian of our Constitution or she is nothing, and her loyalty should be to her subjects alone.
                    The reason I described your comments as an ad hominem attack are because you haven’t said a single word about the merits or otherwise of her case. You are merely attacking her for bringing it.

                    • Indeed I am attacking her for bringing the case (not merely for that, though). That does not make my attack on her ad hominen. Can I suggest you look up the term ‘ad hominen’ in a dictionary before you use it again? Or perhaps invest in good book on English usage. A misunderstanding and misapplication of argumentative fallacies is, in itself, an argumentative fallacy.

                      But back to Gina Miller. I would gladly see her deported – I would do it instantly, if it were up to me. I would also intern hundreds of prominent native Britons in prisons, both Remainers and Leavers, both Tory and Labour and other parties., and various non-political people too. Belmarsh would be full of MPs, Senior Civil Servants and judges, and various other enemy combatants and useful idiots, all awaiting trial and then firing squad. But I would not extend that treatment to MIller. I would deport her instead as she is not actually British in any true sense, thus she cannot be a traitor. She is just another ugly melanin-enriched alien with a chip on her shoulder intent on sabotaging the British people.

                      She has NO right whatsoever to be doing what she is doing, nor does any other non-white person. This is Britain. Britain is a white European country. That’s what the word ‘Britain’ signifies. She needs to go back to the country of her birth and lord it over the peasants there and leave Celtic-Saxon peasants like me alone – or else!

                      Here I am, admittedly, being unpleasant and thuggish – but I merely speak the truth. The truth f the situation is unpleasant and impolite and impolitic. There are the details and legal niceties and constitutional proprieties, including whether cases are brought properly – and I accept that these things do matter – but there is also the big picture.

                      Normally I would be slightly confused and puzzled by your defence of Miller, but you are not native British yourself (albeit you are of kindred ethnicity, which I accept makes you an entirely different case), so I don’t expect you to entirely understand. Probably you think that the British Isles harbour Magic Soil™ and that anybody who touches this Magic Soil™ is able to become British (or Irish, as the case may be), their new identity confirmed if they are able to passably speak English, ace a civics test, parrot dreary conservative platitudes, dress quintessentially, and talk about some slut on Emmerdale Farm. And let us not forget what you told us previously: Sikhs are more British than the British. Of course, there’s truth in it. Some Sikhs, and also some blacks, are more quintessentially British than the real British, but that is because the real British have no need for such ostentatiousness. If you are, you are. If you’re not, you’re not. Your mistake is to confuse the quintessential and the essential. I am the latter, therefore I have no need for the former, nor am I impressed by it in others.

                      I have not said that anybody who disagrees with me is a traitor. I have already accepted that 16 million people voted the other way and I have made the point that it would be legitimate for a British Prime Minister to compromise on Brexit, provided this was in a good faith with the intention of actually taking us out of the European Union. Note that this is not something I would like – in fact, it would make me very angry, and also note that it is not the same as Theresa May’s deal, which was not in good faith and was motivated by keeping us in the EU on some de facto basis. The essential contingency is motive.

                    • I would say that your article is the perfect example of an ad hominem attack. What do you think the term means? And incidentally, I am the perfect example of a native Briton; I was born in Sussex and have lived here all my life. What do you think ‘native’ means?

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