Andy Martin on the Brexit chaos since Boris Johnson took over in Number 10 and where it is likely to lead the country to next.
First published in September 2019.
I’ll try and start at the beginning with this.
On August 28 our new prime minister Boris Johnson made the expected announcement that parliament would be prorogued from the week of the 9 September for five weeks in order for the government to lay out its plans in a Queen’s Speech when parliament resumes on October 14.
He then lost a total of six votes in the House of Commons, ranging from a bill that forces him to ask the European Union for an extention until 31 January 2020 or get parliament to agree to a no-deal Brexit should he fail to agree a deal with the EU before 19 October, to twice being rejected for his call for a General Election and a vote demanding he releases all documents relating to his decision to prorogue parliament and releases documents relating to Operation Yellowhammer.
On top of this he has also withdrawn the whip from 21 of his own MPs, including the father of the house Ken Clarke and Sir Winston Churchill’s grandson Nicholas Soames. Further MP’s have also quit from the party including Amber Rudd, and his own brother who stated that he could no longer wrestle with his conscience when it came to a choice between family loyalty and the national interest – which, in itself, tells you all you need to know about the effects of Brexit on the country.
He has also promised to abide by the rule of law whilst simultaneously claiming that we would be leaving at the end of October, by no-deal means if needs be, in direct contravention of the law of the land, and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab stating that the government wouldn’t break the law but would be looking at ways “to test” it.
Breaking the law in order to deliver a no-deal Brexit might sound to most people to be unthinkable behaviour from a Prime Minister, however, yesterday the High Court in Scotland has ruled that Boris Johnson did indeed act unlawfully in proroguing parliament in order to avoid scrutiny over his Brexit plans. The government’s argument is, of course, that it took this decision in order to prepare to lay out its plans in a new Queen’s Speech.
We have members of parliament calling for everything from a no-deal Brexit through to leaving with a deal, a people’s vote and the straight up revokation of Article 50. The country of course remains divided. Ask people whether they think we should have a second referendum or general election in order to sort this mess out and the answer will differ depending on who you ask.
Ask a Brexiter and they’ll say a General Election will give us the answer. Ask a Remainer and they’ll go for a Second Referendum. The reasons for the differing answers are obvious. A General Election is more likely to give a result that might return a government backing Brexit and a Second Referendum is more likely to return a result that would back remaining in the European Union.
But which of these would give the clearest indication of where the country currently stands on this issue? The answer, to me, is without question, a Second Referendum.
General Elections are fought over a whole host of issues and with the First Past The Post system, only the votes in marginal seats would be really likely to count for anything. Plus, you cannot guarantee that absolutely everyone would vote on the Brexit issue alone. It is lunacy to even think that would be the case. Also, the party that would take Number 10 would likely only get between 30 to 40 percent of the public vote.
A Second Referendum, on the other hand, would be definitive. One question, two choices and over 50% of the vote to secure the win. The main issue with this though is to know what the question should be. The sensible view is a credible Leave option based around a negotiated deal against Remain. No-deal must absolutely not be on the ballot.
So where are we? Are we leaving in October? Will there be an election before the end of November? Will the Supreme Court uphold the ruling about the suspension of parliament being illegal? Will there be a Second Referendum? Will our Prime Minister still be in the job by the end of the year? Will we just revoke Article 50?
One thing is for sure: the Conservative Party will never be viewed the same again...🔷
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