In granting May a mandate to replace the backstop, MPs might as well have granted her a mandate to colonise Mars. They simply look absurdby Jonathan Lis / January 30, 2019 / Leave a comment
The morning after the night, the months, the three years before, Britain showed the world what it has become. Last night parliament declared that it didn’t want a no-deal scenario. It also blocked any meaningful attempt to prevent that scenario, and instead endorsed a proposal which the government, the EU and the laws of reality have repeatedly deemed both politically impossible and legally unacceptable. Rarely can such naked self-sabotage have been so shambolically executed.
Not all the MPs who filed through the lobbies to defeat the Cooper amendment were liars or fools. A great many were simply frozen by cowardice or fear. Some felt that it was premature to block no-deal and prolong Article 50. Others conned themselves into believing it went against what their constituents had voted for. For whatever reason, they chose to take those voters a step closer to economic oblivion. Fourteen of them were Labour MPs who had stood on an explicit manifesto platform of preventing a no-deal outcome. Meanwhile the government, which knew exactly what it was doing, celebrated the survival of its national blackmail strategy for at least another two weeks. Dereliction of duty doesn’t quite cover it.
But this pales in comparison beside the main catastrophe of the evening: the Brady amendment which sought to replace the Northern Ireland backstop with “alternative arrangements to avoid a hard border.” Endorsed by the government—and seven Labour MPs—it passed with a majority of 16 votes.
There can be no excuses for anyone who voted for this sham proposal. It was not just an outrage; it was indefensible. The prime minister herself has spent the last two months insisting, correctly, that the backstop was a non-negotiable element of the deal and that without it, there could be no deal at all. In words she herself might recognise, nothing has changed. The EU agreed the backstop in December 2017 and has steadfastly refused to compromise on the initial wording, which made clear that the instrument—like peace in Northern Ireland—could be neither temporary nor unilaterally terminated by Britain. Saying you’ll support the deal if the backstop is removed is rather like saying you’ll pilot a plane if the back wheels are removed. They may be small, but nothing happens without them.
If reality can intrude for a brief moment, let us perhaps remember what needs to be done in less than two months. The government…