MPs should be congratulated for seeing through the government’s cynical ruse todayby Jonathan Lis / March 29, 2019 / Leave a comment
This is now the most dishonest, cynical, autocratic British government in centuries, and today was its most shameful exhibition. This afternoon’s parliamentary pantomime delivered the prime minister’s nadir: an attempt to blackmail, deceive and crowbar MPs into accepting either the generational humiliation of her Brexit deal or the unique calamity of no deal at all. Theresa May’s skulduggery is inexhaustible and exhausting, but also nakedly transparent. Her defeat, by 344 votes to 286, could not have been more richly deserved. Indeed, coming on what she guaranteed would be Brexit day, it could hardly have been more poetic.
Let us recap what the government has just attempted to do. Knowing full well that it could not win a vote on its deal, but that the EU had offered a cast-iron deadline to approve it, it decided to split the package so MPs would only vote on the withdrawal agreement, covering the divorce bill, citizens’ rights and backstop, and not the political declaration, which paves the way for the future relationship. What it didn’t explain was that this gave parliament an invitation to neuter itself and activated a conveyor belt to no-deal.
The government’s trick was in principle very clever. The idea was that parliament should just vote on a piece of admin today. This resolved the speaker’s obstacle that there could be no third meaningful vote on the same deal as before. Then, because a majority of MPs believe Brexit should be delivered, and a majority accept the withdrawal agreement can’t now change, parliament would be able to approve it easily. After that, so the government cooed, MPs could have their important debate on the political declaration to their hearts’ content.
Sadly for May and her enablers, the government just wasn’t clever enough. MPs could see through the blindfold Brexit and the trapdoor beneath it.
The European Council declared that 22nd May would be the extension date if the deal was approved by 29th March, else the date would be 12th April. Consequently, if parliament had endorsed the agreement this afternoon, 22nd May would have become a concrete legal wall. Approving the deal today would have discarded the 12th April deadline. But here was the key: 12th April is also our deadline for notifying the UK’s participation in the European elections. If we did not send notification by then, we could not stand candidates in those elections. And therefore we could not be a member…