Tuesday, October 22, 2019


For the first time, the House of Commons has passed a Brexit Withdrawal Agreement Bill, only to then vote against the short three-day timetable there is left for Parliament to scrutinize it, and so the prime minister announced the legislation will now be paused.

The parliamentary numbers are still stacked in favor of Remain. Although wanting to stay in the European Union is a perfectly legitimate position to hold, the basic premise of democracy is to accept the majority verdict. 

So, in order to get around that unalienable voters’ right, Remainer politicians have employed all manner of unorthodox strategies.

Last week, this new deal was agreed between the EU and the U.K., but it still had to be voted through by the same U.K. Parliament that rejected Theresa May’s previous withdrawal agreement three times. 

Adding wrecking amendments is an old opposition trick to slow down new legislation, but the problem for Boris Johnson’s weak, minority government is that these can now get voted through, and in this Brexit battle they can come from all sides. 

On Saturday, a Conservative former minister, Sir Oliver Letwin, managed to delay a “meaningful vote” on Mr. Johnson’s Brexit deal. 

It was then delayed again on Monday by the house speaker who, for the second time, used a 1604 rule to state the government was not allowed to resubmit a defeated motion.

Mr. Johnson only finds himself in this position because of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, that his former school and university friend, David Cameron, passed in 2011.

If that hadn’t become the law of the land, this government would have collapsed long before he took it over. It would not have survived Mrs. May’s stunning Brexit deal defeats and voters might then have decided to install a Brexit-majority government – or not.

Remainers soon realized they stood more chance of defeating Brexit by keeping this weak government in power, so they rejected calls for a general election.

Further amendments could still have been added to the Brexit deal to keep the U.K. in the EU’s single market and even to call for a second referendum. 

Given their numerical advantage, all the Remainers needed to pass laws was to take control of the parliamentary schedule, but that is unusual for opposition parties. 

For that they needed the house speaker on their side and John Bercow, who twice banned President Trump from addressing Parliament, was at least sympathetic.

A Tory MP, Bernard Jenkin, recently criticized the speaker after he stopped the prime minister’s Brexit deal from being debated. He said, “it is becoming remarkable how often you please one lot and not the other lot.”

Twice now Speaker Bercow has enabled Parliament to pass laws to stop the U.K. from leaving the EU without a deal. These also forced Mr. Johnson and Mrs. May to write letters to Brussels to ask for extensions to the Exit Date. 

Boris Johnson had previously stated he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than ask for another delay, so anti-Brexit campaigners appealed to the Scottish Court of Session (Supreme Court) to charge the prime minister with contempt of court if he didn’t.

His solution, once his deal failed to pass on Oct. 19, was to send the government’s formal extension request to the EU on time, but unsigned, together with his own written thoughts, which he did sign. 

This effrontery led the Scottish court to delay its contempt of court ruling to try to pressure him to agree to another Brexit extension. 

As with the U.K. Supreme Court overturning the prime minister’s previous attempts to prorogue Parliament, the Judiciary is now extending its remit to new territory.

Not that Mr. Johnson’s deal is popular with all Brexiteers. Apart from changes to the arrangements for Northern Ireland, it is largely the same as Mrs. May’s deal with the U.K. still having to pay a $50bn fee and remaining bound by many European regulations. 

Even removing the Irish “backstop,” which could have divided Northern Ireland from the rest of Great Britain, has failed to win over the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and its 10 MPs plan to vote against it.

Mr. Johnson’s deal would apparently see Northern Ireland having to submit declaration forms for goods heading to the rest of the U.K. However, Germany is worried it would have a competitive advantage, with European businesses relocating there.

There is now just over a week to go until the U.K. is legally set to leave the EU, but it is hard to see how, after these recent votes, that can now happen, with or without a deal. 

If you are thinking politics has gone nuts over here, the architect of the iconic Palace of Westminster, Augustus Pugin, ended up in the infamous Bedlam asylum before his gothic masterpiece was even completed. What is it about that place?

• Andrew Davies is a U.K.-based video producer and scriptwriter.

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