“We must not fear no-deal, if you fear no-deal you are hostage to the ones you are facing” – it’s not often we agree with Donald Tusk!
Both Tory-leadership contenders say they intend the UK to leave the EU on 31st October this year or, in Hunt’s case at least, unless an acceptable deal is very near by then. Johnson is more emphatic, we will leave on that date regardless. It is clear from any open-minded review of Boris’s record that he is not a political head-banger so he probably wouldn’t mind too much if the actual date slipped by a few days so why not agree with Jeremy on this?
If the deal couldn’t be signed because Junker was recovering from a hangover or there was a shortage of translators in the Berlaymont or some other short-term practical problem, Boris would probably wait too. Any deal would have to be agreed in principle with the Council and Commission at the least (and the European Parliament, though that’s a bit notional). Maybe Wallonia might not yet have voted in favour by then but we know it couldn’t hold out for long (viz. the Canada deal). For all we know in Jeremy’s case he might wait even if we were still haggling about the Irish border or the remit of the ECJ—he hasn’t been clear. Boris is saying that he will not agree another formal extension, and that is necessary if the negotiation is to have a chance of progressing; the present hiatus is damaging the UK’s economy by slow suffocation.
Parliament has passed two laws which make withdrawal from the EU inevitable unless it passes another to override them or the Prime Minister asks for an extension to Article 50 (that’s one of the bills) and the EU agrees (they’re fed up too and the uncertainty is also damaging some Continental industries). The other bill is the Withdrawal Act 2018. Boris Johnson, at least, is unlikely to request an extension, and to pass another Act usually requires three readings, several committee stages, plus a House of Lords’ debate. There’s not much time for that and the next Prime Minister could ‘prorogue’ Parliament*; that sounds drastic but in simple English it means ‘discontinue the session’, which normally happens every year but this session has lasted an incredible three years already.
“Unfair, undemocratic!” shout the parliamentary Remainers but they were planning their own dirty trick. Margaret Beckett, Dominic Grieve and Ken Clarke launched a plan to deny the Government funding if it tries to leave with no deal—specifically the Departments of Education; Work and Pensions; Housing, Communities and Local Government; and International Development. Truly Trumpian (it’s what the President did when Congress disagreed with him) but to deny children, pensioners, people on benefits plus the sick and starving overseas, is an astonishing approach. Presumably they think MPs would never accept such punishment on those in need and would rather stay in what deputy Opposition Leader, Tom Watson, calls a ‘benevolent’ Union—do their ends justify their means? It’s not as if they have no other option, they could vote ‘no confidence’ in the Government and risk a General Election—but also their seats of course.
John Major has threatened to take the Government to court if it prorogues Parliament. Labour is also up in arms about it but their most-celebrated leader, Clement Atlee did it in 1948 to get his own way. As usual, hypocrisy rules in anti-Brexit Parliamentary circles.
While some MPs are conspiring to prevent a ‘no deal’ Brexit—or indeed any Brexit—it’s worth recalling some words from a few other worthies:
At a fringe meeting at the Conservative party conference in Bournemouth in 1994, Norman (now Lord) Lamont said, “As a former Chancellor I can only say that I cannot pinpoint a single concrete advantage that unambiguously comes to this country because of our membership of the European Union… I do not suggest that Britain should today unilaterally withdraw from Europe. But the issue may well return to the political agenda.”
The EU is a big confidence trick or, as Norman Tebbit put it, the “Eternal Recession Machine”. Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, has said, “It’s cold comfort, but it [a disorderly Brexit] will be worse in Europe than it is here.”
Is there a lack of confidence in ourselves, as we discussed a year ago in Accentuate the Positive. Can Remainers prove that the economic damage from a no deal would be harder to recover from than the 2007 crash? We recovered quite well from that with respect to employment, manufacturing, stability of banks, deficit level. Of course they cannot, and previous forecasts from this camp have mostly proven to be very inaccurate because they are politically motivated rather than based on scientific method (which economics cannot provide).
* Prorogation ends a parliamentary session and stops most parliamentary business. MPs will reconvene when a new parliamentary session begins. See: https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/explainers/proroguing-parliament)
“Given the parliamentary impasse over Brexit, some have argued that the Government should prorogue Parliament to allow it to proceed with a no deal Brexit without the threat of MPs passing legislation to try and prevent it. Such a move would be highly controversial.“
“If Parliament was prorogued to facilitate no deal, it would not be possible to pass any bills or remaining secondary legislation needed to prepare the UK statute book for such an outcome. It would also prevent the Government from legislating to change the ‘exit day’ currently legislated for in the EU Withdrawal Act and give effect to any new extension to Article 50.”