Thursday, January 10, 2019

Taking back control

Brexit day is fast approaching, and the UK government seems to have no plan. Their deal is so despised that it will not pass the required parliamentary vote, while their contingency plans seem to rely on wishful thinking and ferries which don't exist (which is a perfect metaphor for the rest of the process). And so in a dramatic last-minute development, the UK parliament has taken back control over the entire process:

Theresa May’s room for manoeuvre should her Brexit deal be rejected next week was further constrained on Wednesday night, after the government lost a second dramatic parliamentary showdown in as many days.

An increasingly boxed-in prime minister must now set out her plan B within three working days of a defeat next Tuesday, after a rebel amendment passed on Wednesday.

There were furious scenes in the House of Commons, as the Speaker, John Bercow, took the controversial decision to allow a vote on the amendment, tabled by former attorney general Dominic Grieve.

A string of MPs, including the leader of the house of Commons Andrea Leadsom, repeatedly intervened to question the Speaker’s approach, with some accusing him of being biased against Brexit.

But parliament went on to back Grieve, as Conservative rebels determined to hand control of the Brexit process to MPs if next week’s vote is lost, defied the prime minister.

This prevents the government from running out the clock and forcing a no-deal Brexit by default (and from using that threat to try and force people to vote for its shit deal). But more importantly, thanks to some earlier procedural jockeying, parliament will be able to amend the response. So, they'll be able to instruct the government to withdraw the Article 50 notice (stopping Brexit), leave with no deal (something they've already demonstrated a parliamentary majority against, though they should formally vote on it), or grovel to Brussels for an extended deadline while they draft legislation for a binding referendum giving the UK public a clear choice between those two options. The problem is that no matter what they decide, the issue isn't going to go away soon: a chunk of the UK population (mostly old, white, and rural) rabidly hates the EU, and will see any reveral as a betrayal, and any confirmatory referendum as the public being forced to vote until they get it right (as opposed to the public being given a final say over the actual options on the table / being used as the final arbitrator because the political establishment is too dysfunctional to make up its mind). Worse, they've shown a willingness to murder people to get their way. So, the immediate results are likely to be unpleasant. And in the long term, the demon that Cameron let loose is likely to continue to cause trouble - at least, until demographics takes its course, and memories of Empire die out naturally. And the UK will be a much better place for that.